Row continues over Livingstone

Written By: Mike Parker
Published: April 7, 2017 Last modified: April 14, 2017

Some Labour MPs and prominent members of the Jewish community have reacted angrily at the suspension for two years of former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who was accused of “bringing the party into disrepute”.

Livingstone faced the charges after a row over comments he made about Adolf Hitler “supporting Zionism” in the 1930s when speaking in support of a Labour MP, Naz Shah, who had been accused of anti-semitism.

The Labour Party’s National Constitutional Committee found Livingstone guilty on three counts. As he has already been suspended since April last year, his suspension will expire on April 27, 2018.

But a number of MPs, most of them long-time critics of Livingstone, attacked the decision to suspend rather than expel him.

Wes Streeting said it made “a complete mockery of the claim that Labour takes a zero-tolerance approach to antisemitism”, while Labour’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson called it “incomprehensible”. He added that he thought the Party had “failed the Jewish community” and “failed its members” – and that the party was “not living up to its commitment to have a zero tolerance approach to anti-Semitism”.

Some members of the Jewish community also expressed displeasure. Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said the decision “yet again failed to show” that the party was “sufficiently serious about tackling the scourge of anti-Semitism”.

And Jeremy Newmark of the Jewish Labour Movement (formerly Paole Zion), who spoke against Livingstone at the hearing, despite having been condemned by judges in an industrial tribunal case brought against the University and College Union for giving “false, preposterous, extraordinarily arrogant and disturbing” evidence, said, “This punishment is totally in­sufficient. They don’t match the leadership’s commitment to zero tolerance on antisemitism.”

However, four Jewish party activists who gave evidence for Livingstone condemned the suspension. Jenny Manson, Diana Neslen, Jonathan Rosenhead and Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi said the decision was “an attempt to protect Israel from criticism while simultaneously weakening the position of the pro-Palestine left in the Party.”

And Mike Cushman of the group Free Speech on Israel said: “What has brought Labour into disrepute is the scurrilous campaign by Mann, Streeting and others to manufacture an antisemitism storm over largely accurate if unwelcome historical comments. The assault on Livingstone was launched without any concern for its affect on Labour’s standing, but is only concerned with bringing down Corbyn.”

About Mike Parker

Mike Parker is Literary Editor and Deputy Production Editor of Tribune