A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Livingstone, the law and the Labour Rulebook

So Ken Livingstone has won his High Court appeal against the Adjudication Panel for England's finding that he brought his office into disrepute over "unnecessarily offensive" and "indefensible" (according to the appeal Judge) comments made to Jewish journalist Oliver Finegold.

But as far as I know he has never been investigated by the Labour Party over whether his "unnecessarily offensive" and "indefensible" comments "brought the Labour Party into disrepute", an offence under Party rules. To the extent that they may have turned many Jewish voters off voting for a Labour Mayor of London, it looks like prima facie there is a case to be investigated.

The CLP where he lives, Brent East, could have looked at this.

The Chief Whip of the GLA Labour Group could have looked at this.

The NEC could have looked at this.

If he was a councillor (and if he was his comments would have received less publicity and hence damaged the Party less) they would be likely to have resulted in a Labour Party disciplinary investigation. That may have cleared him but at least it would have looked into the matter.

But, as with his rulebook-bending readmission to the Labour Party without serving the 5 year membership ban for standing against a Labour candidate, there is one Rulebook for Ken and another for the rest of us who hold public office, and indeed the wider membership.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luke I'm not totally without sympathy for what you are saying but if we go down this road Labour politicians talking about machine gunning prisoners be included as well (both livingstone and blunkett comments made when speaking off the record btw)

4:15 pm, October 19, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

If Ken had been a backbencher in my Labour Group and said those things to a local journalist he would have been called in for interview by me as Chief Whip to see if there was a prima facie breach of rule. In fact if a member complains to the whip alleging a breach of rule the NEC guidelines force the whip to investigate.

4:25 pm, October 19, 2006

Blogger Will Parbury said...

Your could just say that you don't want Ken Livingstone in the party rather than have this stupid sniping post on your blog.

How is another investigation into this matter going to help the Labour Party? In reality it is not. It is just a pretex to do want you wanted to do which is put the interests of ideological purity over those of winning and actually delivering for Londoners. This is just as barking as the early 80's loony lefties.

4:35 pm, October 19, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

You are entirely correct, I don't want Ken Livingstone in the Labour Party. That ain't a big secret.

An investigation might help it look like the Labour Party applies its rules even-handedly and doesn't turn a blind eye to its senior politicians making what a Judge has ruled were "unnecessarily offensive" and "indefensible" comments.

4:44 pm, October 19, 2006

Blogger kris said...

OMG, leave the man (Ken) alone. He has had the weight of the standards board (SBE) on him because they took a political rather than a legal position because of pressure brought from the Jewish Council or whatever and the Standard.

The ensuing kangaroo court, the Adjudication panel for England (APE) wanted to punish Ken for being rude and offensive. Trouble is, it ain't against the law or the Code of Conduct to be rude and offensive. Neverthelss, the SBE rolled out the case, wasting even more of my hard earned contributions in tax to run this dog and pony show.

What gets me is that the SBE had only run a similar case about 6 months earlier against a Peterborough Councillor Neville Saunders- with the same result! Why , oh why, other than party political reasons did they roll that loser of an argumetn out yet again- did they really expect a different result?!

So what- Ken got doorstepped at the end of a LGBT party by an asshole reporter that was baiting him. Ken gave as good as he got. Last time I checked, this is still a free country. You may think he brought himself into disrepute- but I've yet to hear a cogent argument (nor has the learned High Court judge apparently) how Ken's comments brought the office fo Mayor of London into disrepute.

Trouble with the SBE is that they don't deal with real issues like fraud etc- and thus end up umpiring over party political stitch ups and school yard spats- like this.

I would bet money that most of the complaints referred to the SBE come from fellow councillors on the other side of the aisle.

I know there are some holding a torch for Frank Dobson or Nicky Gavron as a toe the party line labour Mayor- but that is not what most Londoners want. We've said so fairly clearly now in two elections.

I think Ken talks utter shite on occasion- but I voted for him precisely BECAUSE he is a straight talker and has a bit of backbone. This is both rare and refreshing- and why I'd vote for him again tomorrow.

So what do you propose to do, kick Ken out of labour- again? Do it. We'll still all vote for him.

5:15 pm, October 19, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, that's right Luke, how about we expel one of the few remaining Labour politicians with any popularity from the party.

I heard you were refused entry to Hackey TUC on health and safety grounds last night?

5:17 pm, October 19, 2006

Blogger kris said...

Luke said: "he would have been called in for interview by me as Chief Whip to see if there was a prima facie breach of rule".

What rule? The "I must never cause anyone any offence and be an anodyne labour stepford wife?"

5:27 pm, October 19, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But as far as I know he has never been investigated by the Labour Party over whether his "unnecessarily offensive" and "indefensible" comments "brought the Labour Party into disrepute""

well, if you take the "bringing the Labour Party into disrepute" part literally, practially half of the PLP should be investigated! Just to name a few: Blunkett (for maching gunning prisoners and all), McDonnell (for the IRA comments), Short (well, I lost track about all what she said), Sion Simon (for trying to offer Samantha Cameron to the voters), Bryant (for having an appaling taste in the choice of underpants to wear), Bob Marshall Andrews and Jom Dowd (for being worse than children in the lobby) and you can go on and on

5:48 pm, October 19, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Kris - the rule is: Rule 13A.1 (iv)"members of the Labour group should ... act in a way that does not bring the party into disrepute."

I'm not sure if that was broken or not. My point is that it is odd that his comments merited investigation by the SBE but not the Labour Party.

I'm more disturbed by his refusal to apologise after the event - as the judge was - than by what he said itself in the heat of the moment.

7:26 pm, October 19, 2006

Blogger Will Parbury said...

Re: An investigation might help it look like the Labour Party applies its rules even-handedly

It's a political party they are constitutionally immune from applying there rules even-handedly. The rules are set up by the leadership to get the results that the leadership wants.

Not a left-right point as it's true in all parties not just ours

7:30 pm, October 19, 2006

Blogger kris said...

OMG, Not the "apologise"- a meaningless "apology". You don't get it.

As for the rule: still no argument on how he brought his party or office into "disrepute". You may think that he let himself down- but I'm afraid it will take a little bit more that Ken telling a doorstepping reporter the way the world turns to diminish my opinion of the office of the mayor of London or indeed the labour party.

Does ken have no right to be a human being?

I think your trouble in this argument is your professed bias. If I were your hypothetical councillor in trouble, I'd expect you'd have some proper evidence against me before raking me over the coals in an "investigation".

That is why I am amazed Phil Woolas' decision to have local authorities to investigate themselves (ie hold their own kangaroo court) for the majority of the party political bun-fights that take place.

How can members of the local standards committee put their own party political bias out of their heads when dealing with one of their peers?

The entire process is a joke. If you want to deselect some poor bastard- do what you like- but don't pretend that there is any due process involved.

7:49 pm, October 19, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Kris - if you hold elected office and got there on a party ticket (i.e. the merits of the party contributed to your election) you do forfeit some rights of free speech - for instance there is a party rule that restricts what I can say on this blog - the deal with being a Labour as opposed to independent MP, Councillor or Mayor is that you have some arguments behind closed doors not in public because of collective responsibility, and you accept the party can stop you saying things that set out to damage its collective interests. Ken knew this was the deal when he stopped being an independent and rejoined Labour.

The majority of the "members of the local standards committee" you refer to have no "party political bias" because they are co-opted independents who are not allowed to be members of political parties - clergy, lawyers etc. I think the balance on our one is 3 cllrs and 5 independents.

I and lots of other people who disagree with him voted for Ken because he was the Labour Party Candidate - no other reason. The deal for getting that support is you accept some rules and some collective responsibility.

N.B. you may be sniffy about the value of apologies but personally I think publicly saying sorry is an important sign of contrition that usually helps end a conflictual situation and in this case would have made Mr Finegold feel better.

8:04 pm, October 19, 2006

Blogger kris said...

I don't think Ken would have been authentic in an apology to the reporter. I don't see what he did wrong. I could care less how that reporter feels. Neither does Ken it appears.

Whilst Hackney's balance on their standards committee sounds commendable- that balance is not prescribed by legislation.

You still haven't answered the question: how did Ken bring the labour party into disrepute?

It can't be so long ago that you don't recall that Ken won by a landslide as an Independent AND as Labour. Take the hit- we are voting for the man rather than his party affiliation (perhaps even despite of his party affiliation).

8:27 pm, October 19, 2006

Blogger Theo Blackwell's blog said...

Luke, I don't have a problem with Standards Board censure for his actions, the question is over the extent.

The Standards Board is the statutory body charged with making decisions on ethical matters. However, the disproportionality of their initial conclusions (suspension from office from 4 week I seem to remember) was ill-judged. For example, if a terrorist attack or train crash had happened...

Ken and for that matter other politicians who put themselves in the situation that he did have to deal with the political consequences of their actions - no doubt he will (e.g. press reference to this).

But the standards framework is on a learning curve. In this case it probably went too far in its initial judgment.

10:45 pm, October 19, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone knows Ken is a 'big personality' thats what the post of Mayor calls for. That genie is out of the Blair bottle so to speak. What is wrong in all this is how the Standards Board can behave as judge and jury over your private life and how you behave 'off duty'. Of course it does not cover MPs. If it did it would have too much work to do... Political Parties dont really care what MPs say because politics is about strong views. Its only at the local level that people get upset and over act about political statments. As for Ken, let the people be judge and jury at an election. Ken always won every members vote in London, it was the national party that 'created' new rules and spent every effort to 'stop ken' calling favours in from every Union and threatening every Labour MP in London to vote the 'right way'. The national party got what it deserved. Ken will keep winning - probably because he behaves as only Ken can...

12:07 am, October 20, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Kris - I think a case can be made that using language that offends a specific ethnic minority and which a judge says is "unnecessarily offensive" and "indefensible" might bring the political party you are a member of into disrepute.

I'm not disputing Ken's popularity or that he does a reasonable job as Mayor - but a lot of Tories are popular and do their jobs well too and I wouldn't therefore argue they should be in the Labour Party.

I think it would have been healthier for Ken and the London Labour Party if he had been re-elected as an independent.

Anon - I don't believe there is such a think as "off duty" for elected politicians. If you hold public office you hold it 24/7 and all your actions, public or private, could impact on the reputation of you, your party and your office.

Theo - I agree that the SBE penalty proposed was disproportionate.

9:59 am, October 20, 2006

Blogger The Daily Pundit said...

It isn't so much 'one rule for Ken and another for everyone else'. It's 'one rule for anti-semites and another for everyone else'. For a party that has done more on diversity and equality issues than any other, the Labour Party should be ashamed of itself for not disciplining Livingstone.

10:42 am, October 20, 2006

Blogger Shamik Das said...

As everyone knows, I'm no member of the loony Left and nor am I one of Ken's biggest fans, but on this case I'm with him.

The biggest issue for me is not about the actual comments themselves, nor that they were said to an Evening Standard reporter (I'm not even gonna point out the irony of someone working for Associated Newspapers complaining about being offended - too easy!), but that an unelected group of individuals - the APE, described as a kangaroo court by Kris - should have within its remit the power to remove a democratically elected politicain from office, be they Labour, Tory or Lib Dem.

11:00 am, October 20, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was once sympathetic to broad church politics and supported Ken's rehabilitation in the Party. but after seeing him shake hands with sickening characters such as Chavez and publicly hugging wife beating, gay killing, jew baiting Islamofascists who are under suspicion in the US for terrorist sympathies, I have my regrets.

1:46 pm, October 20, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Clare Short post most be being worked on at this very minute.

2:10 pm, October 20, 2006

Blogger Bob Piper said...

Still smarting over the Dobbo years, Luke. Let it go, man, let it go. Livingstone caused offence to a toad of a journalist doorstepping him for a vindictive and nasty publication. Good for him.

5:00 pm, October 20, 2006

Blogger kris said...

Luke said: "Anon - I don't believe there is such a think as "off duty" for elected politicians. If you hold public office you hold it 24/7 and all your actions, public or private, could impact on the reputation of you, your party and your office".

And therein lies the rub: - the "showing others respect" bit of the Code is whilst acting in your capacity as a councillor;

the "not bringing your office or authority into disrepute" is 24/7.

Disrepute is a higher standard than showing respect. I think you'd have to disgrace yourself pretty badly to bring your whole party into disrepute.

Besides, whilst everyone else is at it (trotting out HRs aguments)- Ken too has the Human Right to a private life.

10:03 pm, October 21, 2006


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