2005 is proving a worryingly anti-Semitic year so far in British politics. Excepting of course the total lack of anti-Semitism. This week it was Ken Livingstone's turn to be taken out and shot for remarks he made last Thursday to Oliver Finegold of the Evening Standard. If you haven't yet heard the offending remarks for yourself, do have a listen.
What you don't hear of course is Ken holding a comb to his top lip and goose-stepping off down the street. Neither do you hear him tossing his copy of Mein Kampf in Finegold's smug faux-offended face. And of course neither of those things happened. Because although Livingstone may be many things - petulant, crapulent, annoying, whining, brash, insensitive, thoughtless - he isn't anti-Semitic. Or at least that's what those who claim to know him will have us believe.
To give him his - ahem - due, he certainly doesn't come across that way. On this particular occasion he was merely telling a journalist whom he happens to consider a reprehensible scumbag precisely that. So he took the Holocaust's name in vain in the process? Hey, we've all done it. It may be crass and boorish, and it certainly isn't what they teach you at politician's school, but should we really condemn him for that? He was pissed, and pissed off, and he tossed a spirited, hyperbolic pop at someone he loathes. Fuck it. Good for him.
Even better of course for Herr Finegold. We'll bet the fillings in our teeth that he has *never* been so happy to use his Hebrew credentials to win points. (And if we're wrong, we'll say, 'Yeah, whatever. Sorry.' If you force us.) 'I'm actually quite offended by that,' he said, with the same tone you hear when you've insulted someone's mother and they come back with, 'Actually my mother's dead and I really don't appreciate your comments.' Well, boo hoo. That was the frigging idea in the first place. Livingstone was *trying* to offend him. He did a damn good job. He should be fending off bouquets of congratulation, not exhortations to apologise.
Clearly, there are people who admire and applaud Ken Livingstone's outspokenness, relishing each and every enhancement to his reputation as a slightly more enlightened Prince Philip. We count ourselves amongst them. In November 2003, he was the only member of the government with balls enough to describe George Bush as 'the greatest threat to life on this planet that we've most probably ever seen.' Ditto his comments six months later regarding the Saudi absolute monarchy: 'I just long for the day I wake up and find that the Saudi royal family are swinging from lamp-posts and they've got a proper government that represents the people of Saudi Arabia.' Over-the-top certainly, but surely a lot healthier for our democracy than the usual bland reactionary sound-bites we have come to expect from our politicians.
Having said all that, there are a great many people who think Ken should actually lose his job over his remarks. These tend to be the same ones who argue the anti-Semitism. How *dare* he liken a Jew to a Nazi? they whimper. What a disgrace. What an insult. What utter balls. These people seem to forget that Jews are people too, and it was only because they were expressly prohibited from doing so that none of them happened to find work as concentration camp guards. Besides which, would Ken's remarks have been any less offensive if Finegold had been Christian? German maybe? If Finegold is also homosexual, will that make the insults twice as offensive?
What was truly offensive was Finegold's piece in the Standard on Tuesday, headed, 'I am at a loss why he felt the need to attack me.' No, but seriously. Who do you think you are kidding, Mr Finegold? Surely you can hazard a guess. Later in the same crocodile-tearful, weeping-to-the-headmaster piece, he writes: 'His refusal to apologise or see the harm he has done has only made the situation worse.' Oooh, the harm. In this however, he may have a point. Observe after all, how Livingstone's refusal to apologise has forced the Sturm und Standard to trivialise the memory of the Holocaust even further, dragging the dignity of the survivors through the mud of a wholly unnecessary round of political infantilism. The Friday Thing offered Finegold the opportunity to justify his and his rag's heavy-handedly hysterical 'Nazi Row' embroidery, but he politely declined. Probably too busy repeatedly high-and-low-fiving himself to climax.
Then again there are those who point out Ken's hypocrisy in damning all Daily Mail Group employees as Nazi sympathisers when he himself has written restaurant reviews for the Evening Standard. Ken counters that the Standard wasn't a hotbed of reprehensibility under its previous editor Max Hastings. It's that moral slattern Veronica Wadley he can't stand. But speaking of hypocrisy, on Wednesday, Tony Blair was answering 'spontaneous' questions from the public on Channel 5's The Wright Stuff, a show brought to you by Princess Productions, currently winning almost universal admiration for their latest must-see, 'The Friday Night Brand Theft Ideas Drought'. 'Anne from Sussex' called in. She wanted to know if it was time for Ken to apologise. 'Yes,' said Blair. 'It's a simple answer.' Ha! What jaw-dropping chutzpah! Award yourself a fine gold star, Tony.
Tony Blair, ladies and gentlemen, will only apologise for something if it happened over 30 years ago and definitely, clearly, obviously had nothing to do with him. The day Tony Blair issues the following statement: 'I apologise, without reservation, mitigation or hope of forgiveness, for every single one of the horrible, inhumane lies I have told over the last, let's say, ten years' is the day he can attempt to pressurise Ken Livingstone into apologising for speaking his mind to someone he has absolutely no respect for.
Sadly, we fear that with Tessa Jowell, Sally Hamwee, The Jewish Board of Deputies, The Holocaust Educational Trust, The Standards Board, the Conservative group at the London Assembly, various genuine Holocaust survivors, Michael 'Fucking' Howard, most of the world's press, Balls-out Blair *and* Page 3 stunna Peta, 18, from Essex all asking Ken to roll over in the bullshit and beg forgiveness for having a personality and a spine, this bandwagon is set to roll for a short while longer.
Oy. This country is getting more like Nazi Germany every day.