former london mayor and Jeremy Corbyn ally Ken Livingstone has been accused of being an “appalling bigot” in a heated row with one of the Labour Party’s own MPs.
Leeds-born backbencher John Mann also accused the veteran left winger of being “all mouth” as they clashed during a radio interview over Mr Livingstone’s remarks about shadow defence minister Kevan Jones, who once suffered from depression, needing “psychiatric help”.
Mr Mann, the MP for Bassetlaw, told the David And Ken show on London’s LBC radio the remarks were “unfit in any political party” and repeatedly asked the former Greater London Council leader to campaign in Oldham, where Labour is fighting to retain the seat of the late Michael Meacher.
Mr Livingstone, 70, hit back by telling Mr Mann Labour was having problems “because a lot of MPs like you are doing more to undermine the newly elected leaders ... than I have ever seen in the past”.
Mr Mann said: “You’re such an appalling bigot, your failure to understand the insults that you have given and the hurt you have given to people with mental health problems across the country by trying to excuse your behaviour.
“What you should do is give an absolute apology to everyone and stop justifying your bigoted remarks against Kevan Jones, and if you are there helping to chair a (defence) review, stop telling people your view and ask them theirs and start with the people of Oldham where there is a major by-election.”
The row was triggered on Wednesday with the disclosure that Mr Livingstone had been appointed as co-convenor of the defence review alongside shadow defence secretary Maria Eagle.
However neither Ms Eagle nor Mr Jones, her deputy - both of whom support Trident renewal - had been informed in advance.
Mr Jones responded by declaring that putting a known opponent of nuclear weapons as co-head of the defence review would undermine its credibility, leading to Mr Livingstone’s comments to the Mirror.
That infuriated Mr Jones - who has spoken publicly about his past struggle with depression - who said the comments belonged in the “dark ages” and demanded an apology.
Initially Mr Livingstone refused but after a telephone call from Mr Corbyn, he put out a tweet saying that he “unreservedly” apologised to Mr Jones for his remarks.
Mr Livingstone today declined to visit Oldham, saying he had spent “45 years knocking on doors” and adding: “I’m looking after my kids because my wife is at work from 7am to 7pm. I need to get them off to school, I need to be there to feed them when they get back. And frankly that is my priority. I am the house husband.”
Mr Mann, 55, responded: “You are all mouth, you’re all mouth, you come out and attack Kevan Jones and you are not prepared to go to Oldham...”
Mr Livingstone interrupted him, saying: “Kevan Jones attacked me and I responded, why don’t you say something critical about an MP who comes out and attacks someone he has never spoken to, (and) smears them, saying they are not fit to do the job?”
Mr Mann replied: “The only smear is you using mental health in the most disgusting way. You’re a bigot and your bigotry is absolutely shocking.”
The show’s co-host, former Conservative minister David Mellor, interjected: “Can listeners kindly be reminded that these are two members of the Labour Party who have been discussing their love for each other, ok?”