Watching Brief: How the Drama of Ken Livingstone Unfolded before Our Eyes, Tony Blair Shows off His Six-Pack, and the Sad Cases of the Rejected Football Lovers
Platell, Amanda, New Statesman (1996)
Oh, the joys of 24-hour news. We were able to watch Ken Livingstone unravel before our very eyes. Observing London's mayor in City Hall on the day he refused to apologise for comments that even his deputy, Nicky Gavron, described as "very offensive"--both to a Jewish reporter for the Evening Standard and to Jews in general--we were front row to a piece of remarkable political theatre.
Yes, I work for the Daily Mail and used to work for the Standard, so no doubt the wild-eyed one will dismiss my comments as part of the 24-year conspiracy against him by the Associated Newspapers group. But there is no getting away from it: what he said was wrong, and he made the insult worse by not apologising. Livingstone, the most politically correct of politicians, knows that better than anyone.
I couldn't help but think that if anyone else had made similarly "offensive" comments (Gavron's word again, not mine) in the mayor's hearing about Muslims, homosexuals or asylum-seekers, he would have condemned them, and rightly so.
What makes it all the more curious was that the Standard, supposedly one of Livingstone's persecutors, told readers to vote for him at the last election. And he was quite happy to take a five-figure sum from the paper for a restaurant column during those ghastly years of oppression.
While we're on the Standard, another apology, this time on behalf of colleagues of the paper's royal correspondent, Robert Jobson. When he wrote several months ago that Charles and Camilla were to wed in the spring, it was greeted with howls of derision, and sniggers that his contract was due for renewal. Now, he has proved his detractors wrong with a magnificent scoop on the wedding of the year for the adulterer of the century--I mean Charles, not Robert.
We all knew the election campaign had begun when Tony Blair appeared on Channel 4's Richard and Judy. The TV sofa is the first bastion of the electioneer. I happened to be on the show that night (but not, funnily enough, with the Prime Minister) and was struck by two things. First, how fit he looks. The man is a walking six-pack. And second, what a consummate performer he is. Even when it came to playing the quiz You Say, We Pay--for which, I can assure you, he was not prepared--Blair pulled it off. And one of the reasons for that is because he does not despise his voters. …