Here’s my story from today’s paper. (“Thank God Gilligan’s not here,” said Ken at one point in the meeting this week. True – but, alas for Ken, and with a hat-tip to the Barnet Bugle blog, I have managed to dig up the video. The rough timecodes for the quotes are given in the text. )
Ken Livingstone has said that his likening a Jewish journalist to a “concentration camp guard” caused a “huge fuss over nothing” (5.29) and attacked the Jewish community for being “obsessive” about his relationship with the extremist preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi. (12.08)
Mr Livingstone, Labour’s candidate at the London mayoral election next week, said being criticised for his links with Islamist extremism was the “burden” he carried for “being ahead of my time.” (12.38)
In a combative performance before a Jewish audience in Hampstead this week, Mr Livingstone also accused Jewish Labour supporters of telling a “tissue of lies” about a meeting last month at which he said that rich Jews did not vote Labour. (9.10 onwards)
The March meeting caused a major row after many of the participants wrote to the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, saying they felt Mr Livingstone did not “accept Jews as an ethnicity and a people” and that he had “suggested that as the Jewish community is rich, we simply wouldn’t vote for him.”
Mr Livingstone said at the event this week: “I came out of that [meeting] thinking it was heavy going but at least it’s cleared the air. Then I read the letter and thought, what a tissue of lies. [The writers] must have been at a different meeting. I was so angry.” (9.10 onwards)
Most of the signatories of the letter issued another statement yesterday saying that they would still be voting for him.
Mr Livingstone was repeatedly asked by the Hampstead audience about his decision to host and publicly embrace al-Qaradawi, who backs suicide bombing, has called for Jews and homosexuals to be killed and said that “to be absolved from guilt, a raped woman must have shown good conduct.”
He replied: “We can spend the rest of our lives going on about what happened with Qaradawi or we can focus on where we’re going in the future (09.40)… Why is it such an obsessive point?” (12.08)
Defending his links with Islamist extremism, Mr Livingstone insisted that he was being “demonised” for “being ahead of my time.” He said: “I was demonised in Britain for saying we should meet with the IRA (12.10)… It seems to me I’m still carrying the burden of being ahead of my time. I’m always ahead of my time.” (12.38)
Mr Livingstone also defended his behaviour towards the Jewish journalist Oliver Finegold, who he accused of being a “German war criminal” and “concentration camp guard” and to whom he has never apologised.
“I thought [it was] a huge fuss over nothing which went all the way to the High Court,” he said (5.29). Mr Livingstone was suspended from office for four weeks for the remarks, but overturned the suspension in court.
Relations have long been strained between Mr Livingstone and London’s influential Jewish community. He has insulted the prominent Jewish property developers David and Simon Reuben, earned thousands of pounds from the Iranian regime’s TV channel, Press TV, compared his Conservative rival, Boris Johnson, to Hitler and repeatedly invoked the Third Reich in contexts such as London property development and the performance of the Tube.