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June 26, 2008


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Brilliant piece!

Dave Hill

Thank you, Sunny and good morning! Have you been to bed yet?


Excellent piece - ruined by the "squealing simpletons" sign off. It always amazes me how much the Guardian dislikes its readers.

Dave Hill

ourman: Oh, I like Guardian readers. What I don't like is abuse on comment threads from ignorant bigots who've never bought a copy of the paper in their lives, despise everything it stands for and exploit Cif's liberal comments policy in order to vent those sentiments in full view of a global audience!


DH for the record - I'd agree with you in terms of their views (and as I said I thought it was an excellent piece) but don't you think that is the whole point? They're allowed to air their beliefs via the blog.

I can recall a Guardian sports reporter referring to people who contributed as maggots - and following the whole Max Gogarty affair, Guardian staff queued up to scorn their readers.

It doesn't sit well to be honest. The fact that these people don't buy the paper is certainly neither here nor there.

Isn't all that paper stuff on its way out - eventually at least. These blog reader and contributers ARE your customers. They're not freeloaders. Or at least if they are, we're all freeloaders now. Freeloading, as far as the internet is concerned is the name of the game.

The Guardian can make its money selling reader holidays and ethical gardening equipment. We're done paying for the news - it's everywhere and it's free.

In the end some commenters are wankers - but then again the Guardian employs a few wankers too.


But he could end up with many more new ones.

Very interesting observation.
Yes - you could imagine him ending up doing this rather stylishly.
We will no doubt be treated to the odd gaffe, but we will be spared Qaradawi, Chavez and Castro.

Let's see how he gets on at Gay Pride!


In the end some commenters are wankers - but then again the Guardian employs a few wankers too.

Yes. Or is the idea that every comment thread should be along the lines of "well said" and "great post"?

Tory Troll

It always amazes me how many Cif commenters state their dislike for Cif writers and their posts but yet still come back without fail every day to read them. Other comment-based websites are available after all.

Anyway, another really interesting article Dave. While Boris has set his stake on bringing down crime levels and will I suspect be judged mainly on that, he also needs to realise that there are many other areas that he will be judged on. And many other areas that need more than the lip-service they have received so far.

Starting as he did with such low expectations about his multicultural credentials, I had expected that the only way for him to go was up. However, the dogmatic decision to scrap the anti-racist message from Rise was a real clanger (even if he didn't know about it.) However, the removal of women and equality advisers was to be expected and to me at least, was less significant. In this respect he is right that it will be the outcomes rather than the procedures that he will be judged by.


excelent post dave,

sorry the 'squealing simpletons' remark can't be denied though... i guess the people who have time to debate with each other on CIF don't have much more to do with their time than grow old and bitter ;-)

Jonathan Hoffman

"That McGrath's fatal remark about the capital's older Caribbean citizens suggested at best a terse indifference to the anxieties of London's ethnic minorities ..."

So where were you then Dave Hill when Livingstone made his antisemitic remarks, including lying about what the previous Chief Rabbi said?

Your silence was deafening.

Hypocrisy or what .... Or don't you regard antisemitism as racism?

Dave Hill

Not fair, Jonathan. I certainly do consider anti-semitism to be racism and the incidents re. Livingstone to which I assume you refer happened long before I began covering London mayoral matters, so you can hardly term me a "hypocrite" for not having written about them. Moreover, I haven't accused McGrath of racism in the first place.

Tory Troll

@Jonathan. Comparing Ken Livingstone to Robert Mugabe wasn't particularly 'respectful to the anxieties of London's ethnic minorities' either, but then that didn't stop you from shouting it across the streets of London.

Jonathan Hoffman

Perfectly fair on both counts, Dave

One, the latest Livingstone outburst was at the Evening Standard Influentials Debate on 25 February. You were there. You were covering the campaign.

At the Debate I asked Livingstone how London can stay ahead as a great world City with a Mayor who indulges in divisive remarks especially towards the Jewish Community – such as “Israel should not have been created” (he had said that to me twice previously, once in Finchley Central b4 the 2004 Mayoral election and again at the Clash of Civilisations Conference in January 2007 (this is recorded on YouTube).

Livingstone did not answer the question. He said that he had criticised Mrs Thatcher’s government in the UK and that he – and others – should be free to criticise the Israeli government.

He then said that even the previous Chief Rabbi (he did not name which Chief Rabbi, but he must have been referring to Lord Jakobovits) had said in an Evening Standard Interview that maybe it might have been better if Israel had not been created.

I shouted three times “Not True” from the audience but by that time the roving mike had been taken away. Just to be sure, I checked it after on the JC Archive. The interview has to be the one in 1991 which was very very controversial in the Jewish Community because the ES subeditor headlined it “Chief Rabbi Shames Israel”

Here is what the late Lord Jakobovits said in the Evening Standard in May 1991. He did an interview with AN Wilson on page 10 in one of the editions in the week ending 31 May. He said “the Palestinian problem is a stain on humanity – people locked up in those wretched refugee camps for 40 years. We ought to cry out to the world, we ought not to wait til terrorists draw attention to it ….. I do not know what the ultimate solution will be. But we cannot forever dominate a million-and-a half Arabs, lord it over them. In less than 30 years, they will be in a majority. This blinkered attitude is self-destructive.”

On 25 February Livingstone KNEW he was lying. Because in 2005 he told a similar lie and people spoke out.


“I remember when the former Chief Rabbi, Jakobovits, retired, he was interviewed in the Standard and he said, “When I look at what’s happening I’m not sure it was right to create the state of Israel.”. It’s a perfectly valid thing to say after so many wars, so much bloodshed – did it work?

The 25 February offence was reported in the Jerusalem Post:


As for "Moreover, I haven't accused McGrath of racism in the first place" - you are being disingenuous, Dave. Here is what you wrote:

"McGrath's fatal remark about the capital's older Caribbean citizens suggested at best a terse indifference to the anxieties of London's ethnic minorities"

Jonathan Hoffman

No-one to my knowledge 'compared Livingstone to Mugabe'. The comparison would be ludicrous, as is the accusation.

Tory Troll

Jonathan, are you being serious? I know it was a long campaign but surely you remember saying this:


And some photos to trigger your memory:


The comparison was ludicrous yes. And it was also very offensive. The accusation however, is true.

Dave Hill

Hello ourman: Well, you might be right that newspapers are on their way out but how many of those who queue up to hurl abuse and reckless libels under false names at Cif contributors would do so if they had to pay to read their articles? They abuse the site's hospitality - and still we allow them their say! Also, be fair: I'm one of the few Cif writers who engages in debate with his hecklers (not re. the piece above because I had to be elsewhere, but I usually do). Normally, I'm happy to provide that courtesy however ignorant and boring the trolls are. But sometimes, you get home, you look at what's been written about you and your piece and, well, your emotions get the better of you. Another point to remember is that those who post comments are but a tiny minority of those who read the articles, so being being rude about rude commenters is not being rude about readers in general. Anyway, thanks for liking my article. I'll remember your admonishment and try to control my feelings better in future!

Dave Hill

Jonathan: I chose my words about McGrath after considerable thought. I do not believe the remark he made provides grounds for calling him racist, just as I do not believe any of the "gaffes" Boris has made in relation to this subject are grounds for calling him racist. It could be argued that the "terse indifference" I refer to amounts to the same thing, but I don't think the evidence is strong enough. Moreover, the fact that I've never met or spoken to McGrath and am not acquainted with his views on ethnicity and nationhood in any context would make it irresponsible of me to draw that inference and state it publicly. That is why I was at pains not to do so. I regret that you have not appreciated this.

Regarding the Influentials Debate, I do remember that question being put to Livingstone (though until now I didn't know you were the questioner). It was one of many put to Livingstone that evening on many subjects. I chose not to report it in my coverage partly because his attitude to Israel was not one of the main themes of the evening and partly because I was unable to make a judgement about the article to which he referred because I had not previously known of its existence, let alone its contents. The parts you quote to me now are the first extracts from it I have ever read.

I know, Jonathan, that this subject is of passionate concern to you and, having spoken to you in the past, I understand why. Unfortunately, it is not a subject I feel confident about tackling - I'm simply not well enough informed and there are many, many pitfalls. Until that changes, I prefer to leave this issue to others to argue over. I think you'd agree that plenty of other Cif contributors, not to mention bloggers far and wide, have gone into it in great depth.

Jonathan Hoffman

I repeat: No-one to my knowledge 'compared Livingstone to Mugabe'.

Tory Troll

Jonathan, are you seriously denying chanting this:

"Goodbye Mugabe / Next is Ken / Let's make London Smile again."

You're not actually denying that are you? Dozens of people heard you.

Jonathan Hoffman

Dave - Ok, I think you now accept that Livingstone's fatal remarks about Israel and the previous Chief Rabbi (not to mention 'concentration camp guard') suggested at best a terse indifference to the anxieties of one of London's ethnic minorities, even if you didn't say so at the time.

Mr/Ms Anonymous Labour Party Attack Dog aka 'ToryTroll':

I repeat (for the third time) : No-one to my knowledge "COMPARED Livingstone to Mugabe".

Tory Troll

I will take that as a no.

Jonathan Hoffman

Take it as green cheese if you want. But also take it as a declaration that I have no intention of allowing an anonymous troll to hijack an important and sensitive debate between two non-anonymous people.


Hoffman: You seem to have overlooked the fact that you can be anti-Israeli and not be anti-Semitic. While the two groups tend to overlap, why should that stifle the right of people to criticise Israel's government and question the validity of its existence as a state? If you scream out "anti-Semite" every time someone accuses Israel of mass murder in the Gaza strip or attacks the militancy of Olmert, it only seeks to undermine the anti-racism movement as a whole.

If you're going to defend McGrath, then by your own standards you can't attack Ken.

At least Ken's comments had some basis (Chief Rabbi aside) in historical debate; whether you like it or not the illegal immigration into Palestine, the flaunting of British Law and the partition make the formation of the State of Israel a debatable question, not fact.

And out of the two, who was worse? Ken said that Israel should never have been created; perhaps he's right, looking at the strength that gave to the Islamist movement in the Middle East and led to the rise of groups who would assassinate President Sadat in Egypt and would help men like Ayman al-Zawahiri to power.

I understand these comments might be hurtful to some in the Jewish community, but it wasn't an attack on the Jewish people or the faith, but on the State of Israel. The two need to be seen as separate.

McGrath's comments aren't racist, but they're the kind of comments which really damage community relations and lead to the fracturing of society. He effectively said to an entire ethnicity, that no matter how long you have been a part of this country you are not one of us. This is not your home; Africa/The Caribbean is. That's the kind of talk which prevents integration and leads to minority groups feeling isolated and rejected by British society and instead of integrating, some will inevitably reject Britain and turn to crime or extremism.

Anyway, regardless of whether Ken lied or is anti-Semitic for attacking the State of Israel, McGrath's comments were wrong.

Tory Troll

Okay Jonathan. My name is Adam Bienkov. Does that make you any more likely to answer my question? I suspect not.

Now, onto the sensitive debate. You accuse me of 'hijacking,' but isn't that exactly what you have done here? I'm not sure if you have noticed, but Ken Livingstone is no longer the Mayor of London and this blog is focused on the Mayoralty.

You have spent many years shouting at public meetings about Ken and Israel so I understand that it must be hard to let go, but nobody really cares what Ken said about Israel four years ago. They barely care what he said four minutes ago. Boris is the Mayor now so everybody is interested in what he and his team are saying. What Boris says and does about race and multiculturalism will send signals about the next UK government. What Ken says and does will not.

So I understand that you don't want to talk about what you did in trying to get Boris elected. Politics is a dirty business and if you felt that you had to associate Ken with a murderous dictator then that's up to you. However, it does rather take away from the high moral ground that you have so carefully cultivated for yourself.


Beautifully put OHOC

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