Ken Livingstone suggested Labour will have to lift his suspension over controversial remarks linking Adolf Hitler to Zionism as the row over the party’s handling of anti-Semitism allegations continued.
The former London mayor was suspended over comments branded “vile, offensive and crass” by the party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, who said Mr Livingstone had “let down the Labour Party”.
But Livingstone, who faces calls to be expelled over his remarks, claimed that the party’s internal inquiry would have to let him back in because “it’s hard for somebody to decide to suspend me from the party” when he had been making the same point for 30 years.
The former MP, an ally of party leader Jeremy Corbyn, sparked fury among colleagues by claiming that Hitler had supported Zionism “before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews”.
Livingstone was unrepentant despite his suspension, saying: “How can the truth be an offence? If I had lied that would be offensive.”
He said his defence would rest on a book by controversial American Marxist historian Lenni Brenner — whom he met in the 1980s when he was leader of the Greater London Council — alleging collusion between the Nazis and early campaigners for a Jewish homeland.
“I’ll just produce the evidence and I mean it’s hard for somebody to decide to suspend me from the party here when all this was there 30 years ago in the public domain and nobody raised a peep,” he said.
Labour has faced criticism from inside and outside the party over its response to allegations of anti-Semitism and Watson indicated that rules could be changed to ensure it has a “zero-tolerance” approach.
Asked if he thought Livingstone’s comments were anti-Semitic, Watson said: “I personally think that Ken Livingstone was straying into that territory.”
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