Labour suspends Ken Livingstone over anti-Semitism row

Ken Livingstone has been suspended by Labour for “bringing the party into disrepute” following an anti-Semitism row.

The party is launching an investigation into the former London mayor’s conduct after outraged senior Labour figures lined up to call for him to be kicked out.

Backbencher John Mann was also hauled in for a dressing down by party chief whip Rosie Winterton after he launched a furious face-to-face attack on Livingstone, accusing him of being a “Nazi apologist”.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn came under intense pressure after Livingstone took to the airwaves for a series of interviews in an attempt to defend Bradford West MP Naz Shah from allegations of anti-Semitism.

Shah was suspended on Wednesday pending an investigation into controversial social media posts about Israel which she made before becoming an MP.

Livingstone insisted that while her remarks were “over the top”, she was not anti-Semitic, and that he had never encountered anti-Semitism in 40 years in the Labour Party.

He sparked fury among colleagues by going on to claim that Hitler had supported Zionism “before he went mad and ended up killing 6m Jews”.

Within minutes of his BBC London interview, Labour MPs — including several members of the shadow cabinet — were queuing up to demand his suspension or removal from the party.

Labour’s London mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan described his comments as “appalling and inexcusable” and shadow cabinet member Chris Bryant told the House of Commons he was “sick and tired” of people trying to explain away anti-Semitism, adding: “Yes, I’m talking to you, Ken Livingstone.”

As the furore over his comments grew, Livingstone even lost the support of people on the left of the Labour movement.

The chairman of the Momentum group of Corbyn supporters, Jon Lansman, said it was “time he left politics altogether”, adding: “All political lives end in failure and he should now depart voluntarily.”

Livingstone was harangued by Mann as the pair arrived for separate interviews at broadcast studios in Westminster’s Millbank.

As the former London mayor, phone clamped to his ear, attempted to conduct a radio interview, the Bassetlaw MP jabbed his finger at him, accusing him of being a “Nazi apologist” and attempting to “rewrite history”.

The party later said in a statement that Winterton had “made it absolutely clear to John Mann that it is completely inappropriate for Labour members of parliament to be involved in very public rows on the television”.

Following Livingstone’s suspension, The Guardian reported Corbyn as saying: “There were grave concerns about the language he used. We had a discussion about it and decided we would suspend him and he would go through an investigation by the party.”

The Labour leader told the Hull Daily Mail during a visit to Humberside: “Ken Livingstone has been suspended pending an investigation. We will not tolerate anti-Semitism in any form in our Labour Party.”

Labour MP Louise Ellmann, who was chairwoman of the Jewish Labour Movement until earlier this year, welcomed Livingstone’s suspension, but said it was “difficult to understand” why Mann should face disciplinary action for confronting him.

A number of Jewish groups called for Livingstone’s immediate expulsion from Labour.


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