Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Ken Speaks:

Personal statement by the Mayor of London at City Hall, 28 February 2006:

Yesterday my lawyers lodged an appeal in the High Court against the decision of the tribunal to suspend me from office for four weeks.

I have taken the time over the last few days to read everything that has appeared in the newspapers about the ramifications of the decision of the Tribunal. Irrespective of what people think about the original issue, there is a virtual unanimity that it is wholly wrong that an unelected quango should have the power to remove from office a mayor who has committed no crime and has been elected on two separate occasions by the voters of this city.

It is difficult to recall the last time I agreed with Lord Tebbit, for example, but people from across the political spectrum agree that the basic principle of democracy is that those elected by the people should only be removed by the voters.

The Standards Board for England argues that I “hold the Code of Conduct in contempt”. That is not the case, but I have made no secret that I believe the Standards Board for England is a completely unnecessary waste of time and taxpayers’ money and should be abolished. The police and the courts should be the instruments by which wrongdoing in local government is dealt with. This body was originally established to prevent the sort of financial wrongdoing that characterised Lady Porter’s corrupt regime at Westminster City Council in the l980s. Far from identifying financial corruption the Standards Board has ended up regulating the use of language and to do this it uses the vague and uncertain concept of “behaviour that brings an office or authority into disrepute”. The trouble with the concept of disrepute is that can be made to mean whatever you want it to mean. It may or may not be appropriate for the regulation of behaviour in a gentleman’s club or a regimental mess but it should not have greater sway than the decisions of ordinary voters as to who should hold public office.

The Standards Board has itself recognised this by reviewing the code of conduct and has recommended to government that outside of official duties the code “should be restricted only to matters that would be regarded as unlawful”. The government has accepted this proposal. I wonder why therefore the Standards Board continued its case against me when both they and the government had decided to change the rules so that such a case can never be brought again.

Unsurprisingly one group of newspapers has stood out against the general consensus that the Standards Board has usurped powers which should rest only with the voters.

The Daily Mail stated that I lied and tried to smear their reporter with the claim that he had sworn at me. The Standards Board investigated whether I had lied and decided in the light of the six second gap in the tape of our exchange on the balance of probabilities that I did not fabricate the allegation that the reporter swore at me.

The editor of the Evening Standard Veronica Wadley complained in her personally written editorial that I had failed to show “the minimum standard of behaviour that everyone should respect”. She then went on to describe me as a liar, a hypocrite, a coward and arrogant. Clearly Ms Wadley has had an irony by-pass.

Nor is her venom in this instance untypical. Shortly after she became editor of the Evening Standard on the 21 November 2002 she published a profile of me in which I was described as a “snappy, snarling brute”, “ voracious”, “frightening”, “ugly”, “raging” and “gripped by paranoia.”

I have not been one of those politicians who resorts to the libel courts every time something like that appears. I do however find it a bit strange that some journalists have worked themselves up into a frenzy because I exercise my free speech rights to tell journalists what I think of them as well.

The Adjudication tribunal found that my comment to the Evening Standard journalist had been `unnecessarily insensitive’ and `offensive’. Those are not grounds for overturning the decision of the voters of London to elect me as Mayor. As far as I am aware there is no law against `unnecessary insensitivity’ or even `offensiveness’ to journalists harassing you as you try to go home. There is, however, an un-stated allegation: the implicit suggestion that my comment was anti-Semitic. It is not explicitly stated because it cannot be substantiated. It is nonetheless there and used to give weight to charges which would otherwise be too trivial to merit the gigantic fuss that has been made about this brief private exchange. blahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblahblah

P.S - He's STILL not sorry


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