Tom Watson: Ken Livingstone decision ‘shames us all’

Tom Watson: Ken Livingstone decision ‘shames us all’

Deputy leader of Labour condemns party's decision not to expel ex-mayor of London for saying 'Hitler supported Zionism'

Tom Watson
Tom Watson

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson has said the failure to expel Ken Livingstone from the party “shames us all”.

Mr Watson’s outspoken condemnation of the “incomprehensible” decision came after the Chief Rabbi accused the party of failing the Jewish community by not expelling the ex-London mayor over controversial remarks regarding Adolf Hitler and Zionism.

The decision by a disciplinary panel to suspend Mr Livingstone for a further year because of the comments has sparked outrage from a number of Labour MPs.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said: “This was a chance for the Labour Party to show that it would not tolerate wilful and unapologetic baiting of the Jewish community, by shamefully using the Holocaust as a tool with which to inflict the maximum amount of offence.

“Worryingly, the party has yet again failed to show that it is sufficiently serious about tackling the scourge of anti-Semitism.”

Mr Watson said it is “incomprehensible” that members of the panel “found Ken Livingstone guilty of such serious charges, and then concluded that he can remain a member of the Labour Party”.

The deputy leader said: “When I read the words of Chief Rabbi Mirvis, who says that ‘the Labour Party has failed the Jewish community, it has failed its members and it has failed all those who believe in zero-tolerance of anti-Semitism’, I can’t disagree with him.

“I wish I could, but I can’t. I am ashamed that we have allowed Mr Livingstone to cause such distress.

“It isn’t just Jewish people who feel disgusted and offended by what Mr Livingstone said and by the way he has conducted himself over this matter, and it isn’t just Jewish Labour members who feel ashamed of any indulgence of his views anywhere in the Labour Party. This shames us all, and I’m deeply saddened by it.

“Mr Livingstone’s unrepentant media appearances in recent days have continued to discredit the party I love. His current behaviour is still bringing the Labour Party into disrepute. It is hard not to conclude that his use of inflammatory language to dismiss the fully justified outrage of the Jewish community and others will incite further distortions of the Holocaust in our public discourse.

“My party is not living up to its commitment to have a zero-tolerance approach to anti-Semitism. I will continue the fight to ensure that it does, and I will press my colleagues to do so too.”

Mr Livingstone has vowed to campaign against the suspension, insisting he had told the historical truth, and would now consult lawyers on his legal position.

Comparing the disciplinary hearing to a North Korean court, he said: “I expected them to expel me so I’ve now got to consider whether I challenge this legally or just live with it.

“You can’t apologise for telling the truth. I will be launching a campaign to overturn my suspension of party membership.”

The Labour veteran was suspended in April last year after claiming Hitler supported Zionism in the 1930s before he ”went mad and ended up killing six million Jews”.

Mr Livingstone insisted he had never said Hitler was a Zionist, only that Hitler had supported Zionism at one time.


Labour’s former foreign secretary David Miliband told BBC Radio 5 Live Daily’s Emma Barnett: “One of the reasons I grieve for the state of the Labour Party is I never believed we would see the day when anti-Semitism and Labour were being discussed in the same sentence. That is an unspeakable state of affairs.

“I think that every single person in the Labour Party needs to be absolutely clear that there should never be a day when those words anti-Semitism and Labour end up in the same sentence.”

Mr Miliband said his great fear was that the public perceives Labour to be “going backwards” under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, adding that many talented people in the party were “not in leadership positions”.

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