Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has denied his party is in crisis, after Ken Livingstone was suspended by Labour for “bringing the party into disrepute” over comments about Hitler.
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 Mr Livingstone, accusing him of being a “Nazi apologist”.
Following a meeting between the Opposition Chief Whip and John Mann a Labour Spokesperson said: ‘The Chief Whip has made it absolutely clear to John Mann that it is inappropriate for Labour Members of Parliament to be involved in very public rows on the television. John Mann fully accepted and understands this.”
Mr Corbyn said that Mr Livingstone’s remarks would be investigated and dealt with by Labour’s General Secretary and National Executive Committee.
And the Labour leader told the BBC: “It’s not a crisis. There’s no crisis. Where there is any racism in the party it will be dealt with and rooted out. I have been an anti-racist campaigner all my life.”
Asked, during an election visit to Hull, whether the party had a “problem with anti-Semitism”, Mr Corbyn replied: “No, there is not a problem. We are totally opposed to anti-Semitism in any form within the party.
“The very small number of cases that have been brought to our attention have been dealt with swiftly and immediately, and they will be.”
Mr Livingstone’s suspension came after he took to the airwaves for a series of interviews in an attempt to defend Bradford West MP Naz Shah from allegations of anti-Semitism.
But Mr 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 six million 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.”
Even the chairman of the left-wing Momentum group of Corbyn supporters, Jon Lansman, said it was time Mr Livingstone “left politics altogether”, adding: “All political lives end in failure and he should now depart voluntarily.”
Mr Livingstone was harangued by Mr 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 Ms 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”.
The statement added: “She was very clear about how seriously this was viewed. John Mann fully accepted and understands this.”
Labour MP Louise Ellmann, who was chairwoman of the Jewish Labour Movement until earlier this year, welcomed Mr Livingstone’s suspension, but said it was “difficult to understand” why Mr Mann should face disciplinary action for confronting him.
Ms Ellmann told the Press Association: “Jeremy Corbyn, as leader of the Labour Party, should recognise the seriousness of the incidents of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and be seen to take more decisive action more quickly.”
But Mr Corbyn told Sky News: “Anybody who thinks this party is not cracking down on anti-Semitism is simply wrong. We have suspended where appropriate, we have investigated all cases. We will not tolerate anti-Semitism in any form whatsoever in the party.”
A number of Jewish groups called for Mr Livingstone’s immediate expulsion from Labour.