Ken Livingstone’s suspension from Labour will be extended beyond next month until the conclusion of a party probe into his comments, Jewish News can reveal.
The former London mayor was suspended last April for another year after being found to have brought the party into disrepute over his comments on Hitler and Zionism.
But just a day later, Jeremy Corbyn announced a fresh probe following subsequent complaints. Those complaints were due to come before the national executive committee’s disputes panel next week but it’s now understood that part of the process will be delayed.
But a party spokesman told Jewish News: “Ken Livingstone has been administratively suspended from the Labour Party pending the outcome of an internal party investigation. That suspension starts on the date his membership suspension applied by the national constitutional committee ends on 27 April 2018.”
MPs reacted angrily last weekend to reports the former London mayor was to be readmitted to the party following his two-year suspension, despite the fact an investigation had yet to be formally opened. But sources later suggested his case would be raised a meeting of the national executive committee’s disputes panel net week. The panel could refer the case to the national constitutional committee, which has the power to expel.
In a statement the day after Livingstone was suspended for a second year last April, Corbyn said it is “deeply disappointing Ken has failed to acknowledge or apologise for the hurt he has caused.
“Many people are understandably upset that he has continued to make offensive remarks which could open him to further disciplinary action.”
He added: “Ken’s subsequent comments and actions will now be considered by the National Executive Committee after representations from party members.”
Labour MP Wes Streeting said: “This decision is welcome, but long overdue. Almost a year has passed since Jeremy Corbyn announced that Mr Livingstone’s conduct would be subject to further investigation with seemingly little action by the National Executive Committee.
“It should not have required eleventh hour action by an outgoing General Secretary to indefinitely suspend him. It is time for decisive action from the NEC and the Party’s leadership: not just to expel Mr Livingstone for his gratuitously offensive remarks about Hitler and Zionism and his lack of remorse, but against all antisemites and their apologists infesting the Labour Party.”
The Board of Deputies of British Jews called on Labour to expel the former Mayor of London. President Jonathan Arkush said: “Ken Livingstone’s readmission to the Labour Party would have been a disaster for the already strained relationship between the Jewish community and the Labour Party, so it is fortunate that this possibility has been taken off the table. However, we continue to believe that Ken Livingstone should have been expelled long ago. We urge Labour not to kick this problem in to the long grass. His comments have been very public, frequently repeated and consistently offensive. It is time for Labour to expel him for good, and as soon as possible.”
Helen Grant MP, Conservative Vice Chairman for Communities, said: “The ‘indefinite’ suspension of Ken Livingstone from Labour shows once again how they are prepared to turn a blind eye to abuse and antisemitism within their party.
“Instead of facing up to the facts and properly condemning the abhorrent and deeply offensive views of Ken Livingstone, Labour are simply kicking it down the road and burying their heads in the sand.
“Jeremy Corbyn promised a kinder, gentler politics – it’s time he backed up his words with actions”
It came after, in a bizarre interview with Jewish News on an underground train on his way home from the disciplinary hearing, he remained unrepentant. “I’ve had the children of Holocaust survivors come up to me and say ‘my dad would have agreed with what you say,’” he said.
He offered perhaps his strangest defence yet to suggestions his pattern of behaviour suggested a Holocaust obsession. He said the terms ‘jumped up little Hitler’ and ‘isn’t that what concentration camp guards said?’ when responding to comments of ‘‘I’m just doing my job’ were “common bits of slang and abuse back in the 1950s”.
The Jewish Labour Movement has warned yesterday that if there was any hope of repairing Jewish-Labour relations there could be no future for Livingstone in the party.