In Defence of a Scoundrel

The American journalist H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) once said: “The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.” So, here we are, defending Ken Livingstone, the extreme-left London Mayor.

On Friday a case tribunal of three judges suspended Mr Livingstone from office for four weeks because the Mayor had compared a Jewish journalist, Oliver Finegold of The London Evening Standard, to a Nazi camp guard.

There is no doubt that Mr Livingstone had offended the journalist. The question, however, is whether making offensive remarks is sufficient reason for an unelected body of judges to suspend a democratically elected official. To accept this is to accept as legitimate that not the people rule, but the judiciary.

Ken Livingstone responded: “This decision strikes at the heart of democracy. Elected politicians should only be able to be removed by the voters or for breaking the law. Three members of a body that no one has ever elected should not be allowed to overturn the votes of millions of Londoners.” For once, ‘red Ken’ is right.

The British authorities have tried to duck the question, raised earlier this month by the Danish cartoon case, whether one is allowed to publish drawings that are considered by some to be “offensive.” Not a single national British newspaper republished the Danish Muhammad cartoons. They were praised for this by Jack Straw, the British Foreign Secretary.

British judges have now suspended Mr Livingstone for offending a Jewish reporter. At least the British are consistent. No Muslim can reproach Britain as Dyab Abu Jahjah is reproaching the rest of the West, for allowing the offending of Muslims, but not of Jews. If there is any inconsistenvy here, it is in Mr Livingstone's attitude. On 11 February he joined Muslims who were protesting the publication of the “offensive” Muhammad cartoons, and blamed “much of Europe’s media to engage in an orgy of Islamophobia.” Surely, if a privately owned Danish paper is not allowed to “engage in an orgy of Islamophobia” the Mayor of all Londoners is not allowed to behave like a ‘Judeophobe.’

‘Red Ken’ may be a scoundrel and a hypocrite. Nevertheless, the only people allowed to punish the Mayor by removing him from office for comparing a journalist to “a German war criminal” and “a concentration camp guard” are the London voters, not the three judges of a case tribunal.

This is not the first time that judges usurp the prerogative of the electorate to appoint their own representatives. In November 2004 the Belgian Supreme Court declared the Vlaams Blok, the largest party in the country, to be “a criminal organisation,” thereby effectively banning it. At the time Stephen Pollard wrote in The TimesI’ve seen the future: it’s scary and Belgian.” Sadly, we have now had another glimpse of the future, equally scary and British.

Scoundrels and scoundrels


your words would carry even more weight if you'd have stood up for Dyab Abou Jahjah when prime-minister Verhofstadt more or less promised parlement to have him locked up before sundown ... (I don't remember the exact date, but it was a cold winter day some years ago, and Verhofstadt's lofty statement that the succes of his government was to be accounted for on the basis of VB's electoral result was looking more and more silly by the day...)

Paul, I dont agree

I cannot agree with your opinion that the suspension is wrong. It has nothing to do with law and freedom of speech, it has to do with code of conduct. I am sure that you could also face a suspension or other measures if you decided to show up to a City counsel meeting in you swim shorts!

The issue is that, when you are in your official capacity there are certain rules for how you can behave. He broke those rules and the suspension is fair.

For those of you who have not read the transcript of the conversation, here it is:,,1717652,00.html

That is not the way a City official should react to a question regarding (probably) an official meeting in the City Hall.

Dumb descision

What I find odd is that -- assuming that a London Mayor actually does any real work -- the people most hurt by this silly decision are the people of London, who shall now lose their chief for 4 weeks.

Dumbest decision I have seen in a while -- if anything they could have passed the verdict and suspended the sentence.

I may despise what you say but...

This falls under the heading of "I may despise what you say but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."  Yes!  We cannot demand that Islam recognise our freedom of speech if, on the other hand, we limit Red Ken's, scurrilous blaggard that he is.

The shoe is on the other foot now for Livingston

Respecting and not offending another's feelings is a CIVIC responsiblity, NOT a LEGAL responsibility. Or at least it should be!

And any laws, including Jewish holocaust laws, on the books should be repealed to reflect this sentiment.

Inciting violence and "yelling fire in a theater" should be the only exceptions to free speech.

The counteroffensive has now begun.

I wonder, as von Sch... noted, if Livingston will see the irony in this matter.

The worse this leftist

The worse this leftist totalitarianism gets, the more "Kens" there will be licking their wounds.  I say this is good in that we keep getting examples of this lunacy as well as one of their own gets a few bruises.  

Nicely put

Yes Mr. Ken Livingstone is a scoundrel - but in this case he is right. I wonder if that will make him consider PC in a broader perspective? For once he is being made to suffer a little because of it.

However, I think not.