Friday 22 June 2018

'The man's gone mad' - Furious Labour MP calls Ken Livingstone a 'Nazi apologist' over 'disgusting, racist' remarks

Former mayor of London Ken Livingstone is surrounded media outside Millbank in Westminster Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
Former mayor of London Ken Livingstone is surrounded media outside Millbank in Westminster Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Laura Hughes

Ken Livingstone has been suspended by Labour for "bringing the party into disrepute" following an anti-Semitism row.

The party is launching an investigation into the former London mayor's conduct after outraged senior Labour figures lined up to call for him to be kicked out.

Chief whip Rosie Winterton is also hauling backbencher John Mann in for a meeting over his behaviour after he launched a furious face-to-face attack on Mr Livingstone, accusing him of being a "Nazi apologist".

A Labour spokesman said: "Ken Livingstone has been suspended by the Labour Party, pending an investigation, for bringing the party into disrepute.

"The chief whip has summoned John Mann MP to discuss his conduct."

In an interview condemned by Labour MPs, Mr Livingstone referred to Hilter's policy of moving Jewish people to Israel, as justification for recent comments by Naz Shah.

Journalists managed to capture  a "blazing row"  between Mr Livingston and the Labour MP John Mann, who has said he should be expelled from the Party.

Mr Mann can be heard telling Mr Livingstone: "You're a lying racist. A Nazi apologist."

He shouts: "You're rewriting history. Go back and check what Hitler did - the book is called Mein Kampf."

Mr Mann told Sky News: "I told him he needs help. The man's gone mad.

"He is peddling neo-Nazi conspiracy theories that even most neo-Nazis don't bother with these days.

"They are the most disgusting remarks, grossly calculated to offend, deliberately timed, that I have ever heard from any Labour politician.

"Jeremy Corbyn needs to act and throw him out."

Mr Livingstone's comments provoked a furious response from a number Labour MPs who called for his expulsion from the Party.

It comes as the Labour MP was suspended amid a row over anti-Semitic Facebook posts calling for Israel to be relocated to the United States.

Mr Livingstone said Ms Shah's remarks "were over the top" but said she was not anti-Semitic.

Asked what he meant by 'over the top' he replied: “To think of anti-Semitism and racism as exactly the same thing.”

Responding to the former Mayor of London's latest remarks, a number of Labour MPs and peers called for him to be suspended from the Labour party, including members of the shadow cabinet.

Shadow Commons leader Chris Bryant told MPs: "I'm sick and tired of people trying to explain it away and yes, I'm talking to you Ken Livingstone."

The peer Spencer Livermore said Mr Livingstone's comments were shameful and "he should be suspended immediately."

Labour's candidate for Mayor, Sadiq Khan, said that Mr Livingstone's comments were "appalling and inexcusable" and that "there must be no place for this in our Party."

Former leadership contender Liz Kendall said: "We must not allow Labour's proud history of fighting racism and prejudice to be put at any further risk. Ken Livingstone should be suspended."

The row was started by an entry on social media in 2014 in which Ms Shah said that a “solution” to the Middle East conflict  was to “relocate Israel into the Unites States”.

It was accompanied by a map of America with a small section representing Israel shaded in, adding that “transportation costs will be less than three years of defence spending”.

Speaking to the BBC this morning, Mr Livingstone said: "Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism – this is before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.

"The simple fact in all of this is that Nazi made these comments at a time when there was another brutal Israeli attack on the Palestinians.

“As I’ve said, I’ve never heard anybody say anything anti-Semitic, but there’s been a very well-orchestrated campaign by the Israel lobby to smear anybody who criticises Israeli policy as anti-Semitic. I had to put up with 35 years of this."

Mr Livingstone said he believed the row over his future would "calm down" over the next couple of days.

Asked if he was under pressure, he told BBC Two's Daily Politics: "Not really. I simply said what I believed to be true, which is that Naz is not anti-Semitic."

Pressed about his future on Labour's ruling NEC, he said: "Things erupt. They dominate the news for 24/48 hours. People calm down again when they go back and check what you have really said."

Rupa Huq, the Ealing Central MP, said it was "too easy" to 'click or like' posts on social media and said that her colleague had not written anything anti-Semitic.

She said Ms Shah has been subjected to “trial by Twitter”.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, Ms Huq said Ms Shah must of had “a silly moment of sharing a silly picture which I’m sure she regrets.”

Ms Huq said: “If it is career destroying it seems we are entering a phase where its trial by Twitter.

“As far as I know Naz Shah did not write anti-Semitic tracts or anything, she pressed ‘Share’ on a picture which was idiotic and foolish."

Shadow education secretary Lucy Powell said the suspended Labour MP Naz Shah's posts had been "appalling and abhorrent" and admitted the party "had to do more" to tackle anti-Semitism.

She told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "Sometimes I know people want us to act immediately but sometimes it does take some time to establish the facts."

Asked if she would be happy to sit with Ms Shah if the whip was returned to her, Ms Powell said she did not want to "predetermine the outcome" of the investigation into the MP.

Last night Lord Levy, a former chief fundraiser for Labour, said anti-Semitism was an issue across political divides but appeared “more prominent” in his own party.

He told BBC Newsnight Ms Shah’s behaviour showed “ignorance”, leaving him "scratching his head with despair as to how people like this can enter our parliament with such a lack of knowledge, discretion and sensitivity".

Jewish groups have branded Mr Levingstone's comments "beyond disgraceful" and called for him to be kicked out of the Labour Party.

Gideon Falter, chairman of Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: "The Labour Party must expel Ken Livingstone.

"Today he has claimed that Hitler was a Zionist and that anti-Semitism is not racism. Enough is enough. He should not be suspended, he should be expelled today.

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