Ken Livingstone has said he’ll demand a judicial review if he is disciplined by the Labour Party for saying Adolf Hitler was a Zionist, prompting derision from Jewish community representatives.
In a radio interview on Wednesday morning, the suspended former London mayor vowed to clear his name and called for the party to oust a number of Labour MPs for “consciously undermining” leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 presenter Emma Barnett, he referred again to his comments about Hitler, and said he’d ask the courts to decide whether he was historically accurate if he is expelled.
“I’m afraid we’ll have to be off to a judicial review in the courts,” said Livingstone, who has maintained that he spoke correctly last year when he said Hitler was a Zionist “before he went mad and killed six million Jews.”
Livingstone said: “The issue will be: what was actually said, and what is the truth. The Labour Party has got no chance of winning a judicial review.”
Barrister Jonathan Turner, chairman of UK Lawyers for Israel, argued that this was unlikely. “I don’t think Mr Livingstone could claim for judicial review, since the Labour Party is not a public body,” he said.
“However, he could bring a claim for breach of the Labour party’s constitution or rules on the basis that they are contractually binding. He would have to show that there has been some failure to comply with an express or implicit Labour party rule.”
In the interview, Livingstone accepted that his political career was now over and that he was “retired,” but added: “I’m not having my political career defined at the end that I’m anti-Semitic.”
Livingstone said some of Labour’s anti-Corbyn MPs had jumped on his comments about Hitler to accuse him of anti-Semitism and should be kicked out for their criticisms of the party leader.
“Those that have been most over the top I think should be suspended,” said Livingstone. “Jeremy should re-introduce automatic re-selection. It’s really ridiculous that MPs in safe seats have a job for life … I’m particularly talking about Chuka Umunna, Wes Streeting. Basically it’s the same group of MPs who were screaming that I’d said Hitler was a Zionist and I was anti-Semitic.”
Streeting hit back on Twitter, saying: “I won’t be taking any lectures in loyalty from Ken Livingstone. I’m not sure why he hasn’t yet been expelled from Labour.”
In November, the Chief Rabbi said Livingstone should be kicked out of the party, and this week Board of Deputies’ president Jonathan Arkush added: “Ken Livingstone is an embarrassment to the party and should be expelled immediately.”
Likewise, Jewish Leadership Council chief executive Simon Johnson said: ““A less offensive way for Ken to get into the news would be to join the Big Brother House or do a streak at Lords. We’re tired of him, surely the media is too.”
Livingstone’s interview has highlighted bitter divisions in the party between the traditional left-wing pro-Corbyn faction and centrists, some of whom have left the party to pursue other interests.