Almost one-third of British voters believe Ken Livingstone should be expelled from the Labour Party, Jewish News can exclusively reveal.

The results of our exclusive ComRes poll, published today, comes ahead of the former London mayor’s disciplinary hearing with the National Constitutional Committee, which begins today, following his suspension 11 months ago at the height of Labour’s anti-
Semitism scandal.

Livingstone stands accused of engaging in conduct that was “prejudicial and/or grossly detrimental to the Labour Party” after springing to the defence of MP Naz Shah, who was suspended for sharing a social media post widely perceived as anti-Semitic. In insisting it was not racist, he toured media studios, claiming in the process that Hitler “supported Zionism before he went mad and killed six million Jews”.

A ComRes survey of 2,036 British voters for this newspaper reveals that 29 percent believe Livingstone should be expelled compared to 20 percent who do not.

A far larger percentage – 51 – said they ‘don’t know’, suggesting either that “many people are ‘agnostic’ about it or, more likely, they are unaware of the comments”, according to ComRes chairman Andrew Hawkins.

Among those who would vote Labour if there was an election now, more people disagreed than agreed with his suspension in the wake of his comments on Hitler and Zionism – 31 percent to 23 percent.

Lib Dem voters also felt there should be a place for him in Labour, with 29 percent to 26 percent. For Conservative voters, 39 percent to 13 percent favoured expulsion, while for UKIP backers, it was 32 percent to 25.

Percentage of voters from each party who say ‘Expel Ken’:

While he is not being accused in the case of anti-Semitism, some, including MP John Mann, have claimed his comments were just that. Of those polled, 22 percent said it is anti-Semitic to claim that Hitler supported Zionism, compared to 16 who did not.

44% say Labour has a ‘particular problem’ with anti-Semitism

Livingstone claimed allegations of misconduct over his comments about Adolf Hitler were a “political charge” aimed at supporters of Palestinian rights as he prepares to fight his suspension from Labour.

He said he had “raised the issue of the collaboration between Hitler and a section of Zionism in the early 1930s” as a result of a misunderstanding of presenter Vanessa Feltz’s question during a BBC London interview. He said he had “no intention” to cause offence but was “sorry” if his remarks did so.

The veteran left-winger said he had taken to the airwaves to defend the reputation of Labour after Shah had come under fire for social media posts she subsequently apologised for and admitted contained anti-Semitic language, although Livingstone said they were “not obviously anti-Semitic”.

44% say Labour must work harder to repair its relationship with Jews

In his 17-page statement, Livingstone said “supporters of Israel” had called on Labour to expel him to “silence” his criticism of “Israeli aggression”.

Livingstone, who will be represented by high-profile lawyer Michael Mansfield QC at the hearing, insisted he was defending Labour, Jeremy Corbyn and Shah from allegations of anti-Semitism.

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“It turns reality on its head to suggest my defence of Labour is what was detrimental, not the attacks on the party,” he said. He said “only a biased or rigged jury” could conclude he breached party rules.

Livingstone said: “I did not say or suggest that Hitler was a Zionist. I did not make any equation of Hitler and Zionism. I neither criticised the transfer agreement or the section of Zionism that participated in the agreement. I did not draw any historical parallels with the situation today anywhere, including with the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

34% say anti-Semitism claims make them ‘think twice’ about voting Labour

“Any suggestion that my intention was to draw equivalence between Nazism and Zionism is entirely false.”

He will be supported by five Jewish Labour members, including veteran peace campaigner Walter Wolfgang.

John Mann confronting Ken Livingstone, calling him a ‘Nazi apologist’:

The Community Security Trust’s Mark Gardner said: “The Livingstone hearing is not about the attempt to tie Zionism with Nazism, nor is it about what goes on inside the man’s head. Rather, it asks if he brought the Labour Party into disrepute, the answer to which is ‘yes’.”

Jeremy Newmark said: “As Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, an affiliate of of the Labour Party, I have submitted evidence in relation to this hearing and understand that I will be called to respond to questions from the legal
representatives of both the NEC and Mr Livingstone. JLM’s position on Mr Livingstone’s future in the Party is a matter of public record. This matter will be heard and decided by the NCC in accordance with
Party rules and I am reluctant to make any further comment before that.

Ken Livingstone (Photo credit: John Stillwell/PA Wire)

Ken Livingstone
(Photo credit: John Stillwell/PA Wire)

The poll also examined attitudes towards the party’s handling of anti-Semitism allegations a year after claims first emerged. Of those polled, 34 percent said allegations of anti-Semitism made them “think twice about voting Labour” while 29 percent said they did not. But in findings that lay bare the potential electoral impact of such allegations, 43 percent of Lib Dems and 50 percent of Tories indicated it is the persistent claims that made them think twice.

More agreed than disagreed – 28 percent to 22 percent – that Labour has a particular problem with anti-Semitism, although more than three times the number of Labour voters disagreed.

However, 37 percent of Labour voters suggested the party needed to work harder to repair its relationship with the Jewish community, with 23 percent saying this was not necessary.

A staggering 58 percent of Labour-leaning voters said the party has as strong a sense of “common decency” under Jeremy Corbyn as under Tony Blair.