Labour plunged into chaos over Livingstone
THE LABOUR Party was in turmoil this week after it suspended, rather than expelled, Ken Livingstone, despite finding him guilty of three charges of bringing the party into disrepute for his comments about Hitler.
A number of Jewish — and some non-Jewish — party members said they would resign.
In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader, said the former Mayor of London had “continued to make offensive remarks” which could open him up to further disciplinary action.
“Ken’s subsequent comments and actions will now be considered by the National Executive Committee after representations from party members,” he added.
But the statement contained no criticism of the decision to allow him to remain a member.
Dozens of MPs, including Tom Watson, the party’s deputy leader, attacked the sentence delivered by the party’s National Constitutional Committee (NCC).
Joan Ryan, chair of Labour Friends of Israel, called on Mr Corbyn “to say he wants Ken Livingstone expelled and he wants the NEC to review the inappropriate sentence. We now need urgent clarification on whether the review simply refers to a new complaint which the NEC would automatically be obliged to consider.
“We do not need another year-long investigation, during which time Livingstone will continue to have a platform to assert his untrue and highly offensive views about the Holocaust.”
More than 100 Labour MPs and 50 party peers signed a letter coordinated by the Jewish Labour Movement saying the decision had “betrayed our values.
“This was not done in our name,” they said, “and we will not allow it to go unchecked.”
Jewish Labour MPs, including Luciana Berger, Louise Ellman, Ivan Lewis and Ruth Smeeth also lambasted the decision.
Ms Berger described the NCC’s verdict as “appalling” and “a new low” for Labour, while Mr Lewis tweeted that the decision “makes a mockery of the commitment by Labour to zero tolerance of antisemitism”. John
Mann, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, said the decision “spits in the face of those pioneers and generations of Jewish Labour and trade union heroes who have been a cornerstone of Labour though its history. I am ashamed of my party.”
Meanwhile, ahead of Mr Corbyn’s intervention on Wednesday, Jewish community leaders denounced the outcome of the disciplinary hearing.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said Labour had “failed the Jewish community, its members and all those who believe in zero tolerance of antisemitism”. The Board of Deputies said: “All we can conclude from this hopelessly wrong decision is that the party has an enduring problem with antisemitism.”
The announcement on Tuesday evening that Mr Livingstone would not be expelled from the party sparked the resignations of Jewish Labour party members. Jonathan Lewis tweeted that “after 37 years as a member and four as a councillor I have decided to leave the Labour Party. I feel physically sick and betrayed”.
Barrister Simon Myerson, a party member for almost 40 years, tweeted: “That’s my lot. I’m out of UK Labour… I won’t vote Labour or donate until the antisemites are out.”
Tracy-Ann Oberman, actress and writer, tweeted: “Like so many of us whose East End heritage was steeped in Labour, I’m reeling today. Resigning my membership. Feel so let down.”
However, others decided to fight on. The Jewish Labour Movement tweeted that although the NCC decision was “a betrayal of our party’s values… regardless of this outcome, Cable Street taught us this. You stay. You stand. You fight.”
Mr Livingstone was suspended for a further year after the NCC panel found him guilty of bringing the party into disrepute for claiming Hitler had supported Zionism in the 1930s. He claimed he had been telling the “truth”.
The 71-year-old emerged from the hearing in Westminster refusing to apologise for his comments, which were made during a BBC Radio London interview last April. In a statement he claimed the party had extended his suspension because of his “political views, not because I have done any- thing to harm the Labour Party.” He added: “I will be launching a campaign to overturn my suspension of party membership. The Labour Party’s disciplinary process was not in accord with natural justice in a number of ways.”
Throughout Tuesday and Wednesday, Mr Livingstone toured TV and radio stations repeatedly talking about Hitler.
On Radio 4’s Today programme he claimed: “What caused offence were those people who opened the pages of the Jewish Chronicle and saw the claim I said Hitler was a Zionist, the claim I said Jews were the same as Nazis and one week later the article saying I had said that hating Jews in Israel wasn’t antisemitic. None of that is true.” He said the JC was guilty of “printing a lie” about him.
JC editor Stephen Pollard responded that not a word of the paper’s coverage was inaccurate.
Mr Livingstone was represented by barrister Michael Mansfield QC during the hearing while Labour’s NCC was represented by Clive Sheldon QC.
The former mayor had enlisted five anti-Zionist Jewish Labour members to back him, including London School of Economics professor Jonathan Rosenhead, a founder of the campaign to boycott Israeli universities.
That’s my lot. I’m out of UK Labour’