Former London mayor Ken Livingstone says he has been suspended from the Labour Party for one further year over controversial comments about Adolf Hitler and Zionism, following a disciplinary hearing in London.
Livingstone, who had threatened to launch a judicial review if he was expelled from the party, said he would now consult with lawyers about his legal position.
The former London mayor avoided being expelled after a hearing of the party’s highest disciplinary body that had been due to conclude on Friday, but stretched into a third day.
The Jewish Labour Movement immediately tweeted: “This is a betrayal of our party’s values. One year suspension allows for a revolving door for repeat offenders. [It is] insufficient for a party the claims zero-tolerance on anti-Semitism.”
A Labour Party spokesman said: “The National Constitutional Committee of the Labour Party has today found that all three charges of a breach of the Labour Party’s rule 2.1.8 by Ken Livingstone have been found proved. The NCC consequently determined that the sanction for the breach of Labour Party rules will be suspension from holding office and representation within the Labour Party for two years.
“Taking account of the period of administrative suspension already served the period of suspension will end on 27 April 2018. The Labour Party will make no further comment on this matter.”
Livingstone confirmed: “Today’s panel extended my suspension for another year because of my political views, not because I have done anything to harm the Labour Party. The Labour Party’s disciplinary process was not in accord with natural justice in a number of ways. For example the panel hearing was not held in public, despite the fact that it could have been under Labour’s rules. I was suspended for more than 11 months before the hearing was held.”
Board of Deputies President Jonathan Arkush was quick to condemn the party for its failure to expel Livingstone, saying: “Relations between the Labour Party and the Jewish community have reached a new all-time low. It is a year since Ken Livingstone’s outrageous comments on Hitler and Zionism. After 12 months of indecision, despite finding him guilty of all three charges, the Labour Party has decided to suspend him from holding office for just one year despite his shameless, disgraceful and tendentious attempts to link Zionism to Nazism. All we can conclude from this hopelessly wrong decision is that the party has an enduring problem with anti-Semitism to which is it is unwilling to face up.”
A spokesman for the Community Security Trust said: “CST is deeply disappointed that Ken Livingstone has been allowed to remain a member of the Labour Party, despite making so many grossly offensive comments that did such damage to the party’s relationship with the Jewish community. This decision strengthens real anti-Semites and their fellow travellers, and will leave the Jewish community less confident than ever that Labour is serious in dealing with anti-Semitism.”
And the Jewish Leadership Council responded: “Given that Ken Livingstone has been found guilty, we are deeply disappointed at the decision not to expel him from the Labour Party. A temporary suspension is no more than a slap on the wrist. Mr Livingstone’s inaccurate and antagonistic comments including over the past 40 years have had a huge impact on the Jewish community. We feel that the Labour Party should have had the courage to address this deeply offensive behaviour with a firmer penalty. The deeply shocking decision by the Labour Party not to expel Ken Livingstone highlights Labour’s disregard for repairing the historic, but broken relationship with the Jewish community.”
And Karen Pollock of the Holocaust Educational Trust said: “Ken Livingstone has continued to cause significant pain and great offence to the Jewish community with his persistent rewriting of history. We have spent over a year now having to tolerate misinformation and falsehoods about the Holocaust – including during this hearing. This verdict is a slap on the wrist for a serial offender. That a mainstream political party would consider these views to be welcome within their ranks simply demonstrates that anti-Semitism is not taken as seriously as all other forms of racism and prejudice.”
Livingstone was first suspended 11 months ago after springing to the defence of suspended MP Naz Shah, who had shared a post on social media widely perceived to be anti-Semitic. She acknowledged as much but he insisted otherwise.
As he toured media studios, he said at one point that Hitler “supported Zionism” before he “went mad” and killed six million Jews. He has defended that position ever since, suggesting at the opening of the case last week that there had been “collaboration”.
The case was brought by Labour’s general-secretary Ian McNicol who claimed Livingstone had indulged in conduct “grossly detrimental” to the party. Labour was represented by Clive Sheldon QC.
Livingstone – who was represented by Michael Mansfield QC – had claimed at stake was the right to criticise Israel. After facing four hours of questioning on Friday, he was asked by media if it ‘was all about Palestine’. He responded: “No, it’s a smear against the supporters of Jeremy Corbyn.”
Livingstone is no stranger to causing offence to the Jewish community – from his comments likening a reporter about “concentration camp guard” to his suggestion during the 2012 mayoral campaign that large numbers of Jews would it back Labour due to their wealth.
Minutes after escaping suspension, Jewish News’ Justin Cohen caught up with Livingstone on a packed tube train for a bizarre 12- minute interview in which he remained entirely unrepentant!
-Pointedly refuses to drop the word ‘if’ before saying ‘if I’ve caused offence I’m sorry’
– He says ‘Hitler’ and ‘concentration camp’ were common slang when he grew up after JN suggests he has a Holocaust obsession
– Likens contact between Nazis and Zionists to deal between Blair and Gaddafi
– Says ‘I’ve always told the truth. I didn’t go to a New Labour training camp for deception’
Posted by The Jewish News on Tuesday, 4 April 2017