Labour plunged into chaos over Liv­ing­stone

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY DANIEL SUGARMAN AND LEE HARPIN

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’

PHOTO: PA

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