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Ken Livingstone - ex-Mayor of London

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Was Livingstone's suspension the correct punishment?

Our correspondent writes ...

The words Ken Livingstone spoke to Jewish Evening Standard reporter, Oliver Finegold, were undoubtedly insensitive and offensive. Yet it seemed for a while that Livingstone would not be brought to account for his actions or his statement. Strange, given that Prince Harry was censured so severely for wearing a Nazi uniform to a fancy dress party when Freddie Star was never criticised for wearing one on stage.

Livingstone is respected by many Londoners as a 'man of the people' - an approachable man who uses public transport. Sometimes when he speaks he makes a lot of sense; other times you sense the true nature behind the public facade.

Many other Londoners despise what he stands for. He uses the bottomless purse of public funds like there is no tomorrow and Londoners now have to cough up for the 2012 Olympics - an addition to their already high council tax that will remain on the bill for ten years. Or it may even be 30 years if previous hosting experiences are anything to go by. And there's also an additional amount on the London Mayor's precept to cover five extra police employees in each London borough. Unfortunately, few are convinced that five more bobbies will have any effect on crime reduction while courts fail to punish offenders.

After comparing Finegold to a concentration camp guard, and refusing to apologise, Livingstone was eventually censured by the Standards Board for England and was suspended from office for four weeks - a punishment that actually amounts to four weeks paid leave! Despite what people think about Livingstone as a person or a mayor, many think it is outrageous that an unelected body can be allowed to unseat an elected politician. But is it?

We know that self-regulating bodies like the Law Society are mainly there to protect the interests of the legal profession and we know that Labour politicians can always look to Tony Blair to protect their interests (see Tessa Jowell episode) so what is so wrong in having an independent enforcement agency who are not constrained by loyalties to their members or tainted by the inherent corruption that affects so many enforcement bodies? What if such bodies were allowed to adjudicate on the actions of some of our politicians?

This will never happen, of course. It's too dangerous for the government to contemplate.

As it transpires, a High Court judge has today frozen the Mayor's suspension pending an appeal. We can now look forward to a court battle that will ultimately overrule the Standards Board for England and probably send them into terminal oblivion. All this will use up valuable court time and will probably account for considerable expense from the public purse.

Yet it all so unnecessary. All it really needed was one word: "Sorry."

"Many men stumble across the truth ... but most manage to pick themselves up and continue as if nothing had happened."

Winston S Churchill

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