Ken Livingstone suspended from Labour after Hitler ‘Zionist’ claim
Former London mayor accused of anti-Semitism after radio interview
Former London mayor Ken Livingstone has been suspended by the Labour Party for “bringing the party into disrepute” in the wake of the anti-Semitism row, officials said.
Senior figures in the party, including Labour’s current candidate for London mayor and two shadow cabinet ministers, had called for Mr Livingstone to be expelled after he said suspended Bradford West MP Naz Shah’s actions on social media were “over the top” but not anti-Semitic.
And one prominent Labour MP confronted Mr Livingstone – a member of the party’s ruling national executive committee – outside a Westminster TV studio, accusing him of being a “Nazi apologist”.
In a BBC Radio London interview, the former London mayor claimed Hitler had supported Zionism before the Holocaust and insisted he had never heard anyone within Labour be anti-Semitic.
Labour’s mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan said: “Ken Livingstone’s comments are appalling and inexcusable. There must be no place for this in our party.”
And shadow Commons leader Chris Bryant told MPs: “I’m sick and tired of people trying to explain it away and, yes, I’m talking to you, Ken Livingstone.”
Bassetlaw MP John Mann confronted Mr Livingstone at the Millbank broadcast studios as both arrived for interviews.
“You’re a Nazi apologist, you’re rewriting history. Go back and check what Hitler did – the book is called ‘Mein Kampf’,” said Mr Mann, jabbing his finger at the former mayor as he walked up the stairs, his mobile phone clamped to his ear.
Mr Livingstone said Mr Mann had gone “completely over the top” and started “bellowing” at him while he was conducting a radio interview over the phone.
The former London mayor took to the airwaves to defend Ms Shah a day after her dramatic suspension and the launch of an investigation into allegedly anti-Semitic social media posts she made before becoming an MP.
The party is now undertaking an investigation into her actions, for which she offered a “wholehearted apology”.
Mr Livingstone told BBC Radio London: “Her remarks were over the top but she is not anti-Semitic.
“I have been in the Labour Party for 40 years and I have never heard anyone say anything anti-Semitic.
“I have heard a lot of criticism for the state of Israel and its abuse of Palestinians, but I have never heard someone be anti-Semitic.”
He added: “When Hitler won his election in 1932 his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.
“But the simple fact in all of this is that Naz made these comments at a time when there was another brutal Israeli attack on the Palestinians.”
His comments came soon after Labour MP Rupa Huq warned against “trial by Twitter”, saying Ms Shah’s social media posts had been a “silly moment” that had happened before she was a public figure.
Ms Huq told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “It’s easy to click those buttons – like, share – and I guess we have to be very, very careful what it is we are clicking on. It was at the time when she wasn’t a public figure. It’s just really unfortunate. If it is career-destroying it seems we are entering a phase where it is trial by Twitter.”
Mr Livingstone’s comments prompted a wave of calls for his suspension by prominent Labour MPs. Mr Mann told Sky News: “I told him he needs help. The man’s gone mad.
“He is peddling neo-Nazi conspiracy theories that even most neo-Nazis don’t bother with these days.
“They are the most disgusting remarks, grossly calculated to offend, deliberately timed,. that I have ever heard from any Labour politician.
“Jeremy Corbyn needs to act and throw him out.”
British Jewish groups branded the comments “beyond disgraceful” .
Gideon Falter, chairman of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “The Labour Party must expel Ken Livingstone.
“Today he has claimed that Hitler was a Zionist and that anti-Semitism is not racism. Enough is enough. He should not be suspended, he should be expelled today.
“He is a hardened politician who has spent his political career accommodating anti-Semitic extremists and making anti-Semitic gaffes.” – (PA)