London Mayor says Mail papers are 'broadly racist'

Ken Livingstone has attacked the Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday's reporting of asylum seekers and refugees, as poisonous and "broadly racist".

The Mayor of London was launching a report he commissioned, monitoring London's local and regional press coverage of refugees and asylum seekers.

The report, Reflecting Asylum in London's Communities, analysed 41 newspapers in London, including the Evening Standard, Metro, eight minority papers and 31 local papers.

The report claims to have found clear evidence of negative, unbalanced and inaccurate reporting, likely to promote fear and tension within communities across London, and says there is most evidence of this in the national press.

Asked if he thought the editor of the Evening Standard would take notice of concerns in the report that the paper ran stories that linked crime to illegal immigration, Livingstone said: "What's quite interesting, if you look at the Evening Standard and compare it with its sister papers, The Mail on Sunday and the Daily Mail, is that it's dramatically different in terms of the coverage it gives to asylum.

"I think whoever is editor of the Evening Standard knows full-well if they put the same poisonous, broadly racist anti-asylum drumbeat that you get in the Mail and The Mail on Sunday day after day in London, in a city where 40 per cent are from an ethnic minority, many of them have been born abroad, it's not likely to do much for their sale."

He added: "I think that's a bit cynical, but it reflects that reality.

Undoubtedly the general hostility of most of the popular press to asylum seekers and refugees has done a lot to fuel the mood of intolerance that you have got in many parts of the country.

"It's no good everyone saying it's tragic that the BNP won seats in Barking and Dagenham, when much of the British media has created the climate of fear and ignorance on which they are able to come into office."

Livingstone said that local media report asylum issues in London very much better than they are reported nationally.

He added: "[There is] not endless use of negative language and images, [it is] much more factually based and much more balanced, showing the contribution that asylum seekers actually make.

"This will be feeding into the awards that I'll be giving for the best reporting in this area. [Livingstone will be giving out awards at the London Local Press Awards in the autumn.] "I long for the day when I can do the same for the national media."

A spokeswoman for Associated Newspapers said the company, which owns the Evening Standard, the Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday, had no comment.

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