Current Affairs

Mayor’s office refuse to apologise to Tatchell

Tony Grew March 2, 2007
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The office of the Mayor of London has stood by comments by Mr Livingstone that gay rights activist Peter Tatchell was waging an Islamophobic campaign in relation to gay rights in Russia.

Yesterday Mr Tatchell demanded that the Mayor prove his assertion or apologise.

City Hall has responded with a detailed analysis of the statements of OutRage! and Mr Tatchell, citing examples where they mentioned the Russian Islamic Mufti.

A spokesman for the Mayor said:

“Last year Mr Tatchell presented Russian Muslims as being the leading force attacking gay rights with the Mayor and Orthodox church.

“A post by Brett Lock of OutRage! from 17 February 2006 stressed the central role of the Mufti, and his only reference to the Orthodox Church was to report that the Mufti had appealed to them to oppose the Moscow Gay Pride.”

Mr Tatchell accused Mr Livingstone of hypocrisy because last year the Mayor himself attacked the grand Mufti.

The Mayor’s comments were reported by on the 30th May 2006, when Mr Livingstone said:

“The support given by the Russian Orthodox Church, the grand Mufti, and the Chief Rabbi to a ban on a peaceful gay pride march is reactionary and the Mayor of Moscow should uphold the right of gays and lesbians to demonstrate peacefully.”

The mayor’s office said:

“This campaign portraying Russian Muslims, and the grand Mufti in particular, as playing the leading role in the disgraceful and criminal assault on the Gay Pride march in Moscow last year is entirely false.

“It is evident that the Russian Orthodox church has much greater weight than all other religious organisations in Russia put together.”

Mr Tatchell said: “We never said that Muslims were involved in the attacks on the gay Pride march. My eye-witness report to The Guardian never mentioned Muslims.”

The Mayor’s spokesman said that Mr Livingstone is “looking forward to campaigning with Mr Tatchell to defend gay and lesbian rights in Eastern Europe on this basis.

“But this does not alter the criticisms of Peter Tatchell’s previous statements on this issue.”

Mr Tatchell said he was disappointed that the Mayor chose to attack him instead of concentrating on the attitude of the Moscow authorities.

“Ken Livingstone has failed to produce any evidence to back up his allegation that my campaign focused on the grand Mufti and was Islamophobic,” he said.

Mr Tatchell said he was disappointed in the attitude of the Mayor:

“I supported Ken Livingstone for nearly 30 years, backing him for leader of the Greater London Council in 1980 and for Mayor of London in 2000. I wrote his LGBT Manifesto for the 2000 Mayoral election campaign.

“Ken used to be a wonderful politician and a personal friend. He now seems to have dumped his honesty and integrity.

“It is a huge disappointment to see him ditch his principles and turn on a long-time ally,” said Mr Tatchell.

Mr Tatchell once again asked for a public apology from Mr Livingstone:

“A decent, honourable person apologises when they have made an untrue, unjust allegation against someone. Ken’s failure to apologise reveals a serious flaw in his character.”

Meanwhile, a London gay activist, John Hunt, has contacted the Standards Board for England to find out if Mr Livingstone has brought his office into disrepute.

Last year Mr Livingstone was suspended from office for a month after comparing a Jewish journalist to a concentration camp guard.

The Mayor successfully challenged the decision of the Standards Board for England, arguing he was not on official duty when the comments were made.

The Adjudication Panel of the Standards Board for England had ruled that the Mayor of London brought his office into disrepute when he acted in an “unnecessarily insensitive” manner following a reception held commemorating the 20th anniversary of Chris Smith being the first MP to reveal he was gay.

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