by Ray Fleming

TONY Blair has a nerve to tell Ken Livingstone to apologise for his remarks to a journalist last week. “Let's just apologise and move on, that's the sensible thing” the Prime Minister said yesterday.

Why has Mr Blair not found it possible to “apologise and move on” for the much more serious matter of lying or, at best, being economical with the truth, over his decision to take Britain to war against Iraq? Surely that is something worth apologising about when your main reason turns out to be totally false?

I hold no brief for Ken Livingstone (except for the success of his congestion charge in Central London) but the incident which led to the current bother was an off-the-cuff reaction to an over-persistent journalist from the London Evening Standard which has done its worst to vilify and harrass the Mayor over his personal life for several years. The words Livinstone used to the reporter, Oliver Finegold, who was chivvying him for a comment about a reception for Chris Smith, the former Labour minister, were these: “What did you do before? Were you a German war criminal?” (Finegold replies, “No I'm Jewish, I wasn't a German war criminal”) “Alright, well you might be but actually you are just like a concentration camp guard, you are just doing it because you are paid to, aren't you?” Abusive, ill-considered, and offensive. But that's the Ken Livingstone who has twice been elected Mayor and taken back into the Labour fold after Mr Blair expelled him for standing against the official Labour candidate. Ken doesn't do apologies and Mr Blair shouldn't expect him to even, as the Prime Minister put it, “because he was a Jewish journalist”, however embarrassing it might be to Labour and London just at the moment.


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