Ken Livingstone denied saying Jewish people did not vote Labour as he sought to limit the damage from a row sparked by his alleged comments.
Prominent members of London’s Jewish community sent a letter to Labour leader Ed Miliband expressing their concerns about his party’s candidate for London mayor.
The letter reportedly claimed that during a meeting with Labour-supporting Jews on March 1, Mr Livingstone said he did not expect the Jewish community to vote Labour “as votes for the Left are inversely proportional to wealth levels, and suggested that as the Jewish community is rich we simply wouldn’t vote for him”.
Yesterday, while on the campaign trail in east Croydon, south London, he was asked whether he made the comment and replied: “Absolutely not.”
He insisted he stood by everything he did say during the meeting, dismissing the row as “electioneering”.
He said: “It was a private meeting, it went on twice as long as we thought because we were having a very interesting conversation and we had a very nice meal together, and I don’t recall anyone complaining about anything I’d said there, so I think this is a bit of electioneering from people who aren’t terribly keen to see a Labour mayor.”
He added that he had always fought prejudice and defended his record on looking out for the Jewish community.
“Every year I was mayor, anti-Semitic attacks declined,” he said.
“The moment I stopped being mayor, they went up pretty dramatically under Boris Johnson...
“The simple reality is I have always fought prejudice. These charges are used again and again.”
Mr Miliband, MP for Doncaster North, joined Mr Livingstone as he launched his “fare deal” campaign to cut public transport fares, and lent him his backing.
“I know Ken Livingstone well,” he said. “He doesn’t have a prejudiced bone in his body.
“He is attracting people from all faiths, all backgrounds, all religions to his campaign.
“He’s somebody who’s fought prejudice all his life.”