Ken Livingstone: Labour pursuing ‘Hitler’ case in partisan way

Ken Livingstone: Labour pursuing ‘Hitler’ case in partisan way

The former Mayor of London says the probe is a 'political charge' aimed at silencing critics of Israel

Former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone
Former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone

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

The former London mayor was suspended from the party in April last year after claiming that Hitler supported Zionism in the 1930s. He will have his case heard by Labour’s national constitutional committee (NCC) on Thursday.

In his submission to the hearing, Mr Livingstone claimed Labour was pursuing the case against him in a “partisan” way and suggested there was a witch hunt aimed at critics of Israel.

Mr Livingstone 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.

Mr Livingstone faces allegations that he engaged in conduct that was “prejudicial and/or grossly detrimental to the Labour Party”.

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

In his 17-page statement, Mr Livingstone said: “What is being presented to the NCC hearing is a political allegation, that I stand up for the rights of party members expressing their support for Palestinian human rights. That is the real charge against me.”

He said “supporters of Israel” had called on Labour to expel him to “silence” his criticism of “Israeli aggression”.

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

In a reference to the US anti-Communist witch hunts of the 1950s, he said: “Some are seeking a type of McCarthyism, where accusations are made without proper regard for evidence in order to restrict political discussion.”

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

“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.

Mr 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.

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

“It has been suggested that my comments were offensive. For the sake of absolute clarity, I reiterate that I had absolutely no intention for my remarks to cause offence, least of all to Jewish people, and I am sorry if they did.”

Mr Livingstone will be supported by five Jewish Labour members, including veteran peace campaigner Walter Wolfgang, who branded the process a “travesty”.

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