Livingstone suspended as Bradford MP’s anti-Semitism row triggers Labour meltdown: Watch the confrontation

Ken Livingstone
Ken Livingstone
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LABOUR leader Jeremy Corbyn was tonight forced to deny the party was in crisis after it was plunged into a fresh row over anti-Semitism.

Former London mayor Ken Livingstone was earlier suspended following a series of interviews where he insisted social media posts made by Bradford MP Naz Shah, for which she had already apologised, were not anti-Semitic.

Ms Shah is herself currently suspended by the party over the posts, made before she became an MP, which appeared to endorse the relocation of Jews from Israel to the United States while another compared “Apartheid Israel” to “Hitler”.

Mr Livingstone’s defence of Ms Shah’s actions prompted outrage among Labour MPs and he was suspended this afternoon.

Labour has been hit by a series of allegations of anti-Semitism in recent weeks.

Mr Corbyn, a close friend of Mr Livingstone, said: “It’s not a crisis. There’s no crisis. Where there is any racism in the party it will be dealt with and rooted out. I have been an anti-racist campaigner all my life.”

Ms Shah’s suspension, on Wednesday afternoon, had come after she offered a “profound apology” in the Commons and expressed regret at the “upset and hurt to the Jewish community”.

But Mr Livingstone re-opened the row by defending her actions.

He said: ““Her remarks were over the top but she is not anti-Semitic.

“I have been in the Labour Party for 40 years and I have never heard anyone say anything anti-Semitic.

“I have heard a lot of criticism for the state of Israel and its abuse of Palestinians, but I have never heard someone be anti-Semitic.”

He added: “When Hitler won his election in 1932 his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.”

Writing on Twitter, Normanton, Castleford and Pontefract MP Yvette Cooper before Mr Livingstone was suspended, said: “No more delays from party - sort this out fast! Ken is deeply wrong. Anti-semitism IS racism, full-stop.”

Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis said: “Ken Livingstone’s comments are appalling. No place for anti-Semitism in the Labour Party or society.”

There was also anger that Labour MP John Mann, filmed calling Mr Livingstone a “Nazi apologist”, had been summoned to a dressing down by chief whip Rosie Winterton.

Barnsley East MP Michael Dugher described the move as “outrageous” and said Mr Mann was “100 per cent right”.

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The party said Mann had been reprimanded by Ms Winterton, who told him it was “completely inappropriate for Labour Members of Parliament to be involved in very public rows on the television”.

Jewish groups had been calling for Mr Livingstone’s immediate expulsion from Labour.

Gideon Falter, chairman of Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “He is a hardened politician who has spent his political career accommodating anti-Semitic extremists and making anti-Semitic gaffes.

“Jeremy Corbyn should understand that zero tolerance for racism is all or nothing, and it is time for Ken Livingstone to be banished or for Corbyn to stop pretending to oppose racism.”

Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: “Ken Livingstone’s comments were abhorrent and beyond disgraceful.

“He denies anti-Semitism in Labour when the evidence is there for all to see. He lacks any sense of reality and decency. He must now be expelled from the Labour Party.”

Prime Minister David Cameron said: “It is quite clear that the Labour Party has got a problem with anti-Semitism.

“I think they have got to recognise that anti-Semitism is like racism, it is unacceptable in a modern political party and every political party facing this problem has got to deal with it.

“As I said to Jeremy Corbyn some weeks ago - when I was shouted down in the House of Commons with cries of ‘disgraceful’ from the Labour benches - they’ve got a problem, it is now totally apparent they’ve got a problem, and they have got to deal with it.”