New Statesman political editor Martin Bright has called for official watchdogs to take action against Ken Livingstone, following his highly critical Channel 4 Dispatches investigation into the office of the mayor of London.
Livingstone claimed he was the victim of a ‘hatchet job’by Channel 4 and in a statement released ahead of the broadcast, a spokesman for the Livingstone re-election campaign denounced its claims as ‘ludicrous’and accused it of ‘smearing’the mayor.
Bright defended his investigation and called upon the Standards Board for England, the Audit Commission and the Electoral Commission to look at the evidence.
He told Press Gazette: ‘This was a very serious piece of journalism carried out by Channel 4 over a number of months.
‘We made several very serious claims about the conduct of the office of the mayor of London and so far Ken Livingstone has failed to fully answer any of them.
‘One of the problems with Ken Livingstone and the mayoral office is that it’s very difficult to see who holds him to account, but the bodies that are supposed to should now take our evidence and investigate it.”
The programme accused Livingstone of running his office in an overly presidential, undemocratic style, and also said that he drank in the office and at public meetings as early as 10 o’clock in the morning.
Bright said that, showing his ‘lack of respect for freedom of speech”, Livingstone attempted up until the time of transmission to have the programme pulled.
At the time of going to press, Ofcom had received 11 complaints about the documentary, but none were from the mayor himself.
Bright said: ‘I think he would be extremely ill-advised to do that. We’ve raised very serious issues, which he needs to answer. They are issues that are hugely in the public interest.”
Channel 4 said in a statement it was confident that the programme complied with the Ofcom code.
Livngstone has also complained about a column Bright wrote for the Evening Standard in which he said: ‘I feel it is my duty to warn the London electorate that a vote for Livingstone is a vote for a bully and a coward who is not worthy to lead this great city of ours.”
Bright said that he did not come to this conclusion until the mayor’s office launched what he called a ‘disgraceful’attack on Atma Singh, a whistleblower featured in the documentary, who the office accused of being a threat to national security.
The mayor’s office also said that a programme of such a nature should not have been broadcast in the run-up to an election without balancing coverage of other candidates.
Bright responded: ‘You can’t expect in the four months before an election not to have your record held up to scrutiny – that’s just absurd.
‘This is a programme about the mayor of London and the office of the mayor of London. There’s only one mayor of London, and that’s Ken Livingstone – he has all the power. The other candidates have none. As a journalist, I see it as my duty to hold those in power to account.”