Ken Livingstone. Getty
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Jeremy Corbyn: Ken Livingstone could face further action over "grossly insensitive" Hitler comments

The Labour leader says that further action might be taken against the ex-London mayor, after a hearing refused to expel him from the party. 

Jeremy Corbyn has condemned former London mayor Ken Livingstone's comments about Hitler "supporting Zionism".

In a statement, the Labour leader said: "Ken Livingstone’s comments have been grossly insensitive, and he has caused deep offence and hurt to the Jewish community.

“Labour's independently elected National Constitutional Committee has found Ken guilty of bringing the party into disrepute and suspended him for two years.

“It is deeply disappointing that, despite his long record of standing up to racism, Ken has failed to acknowledge or apologise for the hurt he has caused. Many people are understandably upset that he has continued to make offensive remarks which could open him to further disciplinary action.

“Since initiating the disciplinary process, I have not interfered with it and respect the independence of the party’s disciplinary bodies. But Ken’s subsequent comments and actions will now be considered by the National Executive Committee after representations from party members.”

On 4 April, Ken Livingstone was suspended from holding party office for his comments that Hitler was "supporting Zionism" before "he went mad and killed six million Jews". However, he was not expelled from the party, instead being suspended for two years (one of which has already elapsed). 

That decision by the Constitutional Committee has been condemned by Jewish groups and the Chief Rabbi. Deputy leader Tom Watson said it "shames us all" adding that "the party has yet again failed to show that it is sufficiently serious about tackling the scourge of anti-Semitism".

Welsh Labour leader and First Minister Carwyn Jones joined the condemnation, saying: “Last year when Ken Livingstone first made these deeply offensive remarks causing much distress to those in the Jewish community, and beyond, I called for his expulsion. I stand by those comments today."

“Not only has he failed to apologise for or even acknowledge how divisive, distasteful and insulting his comments were, but he continues to air them openly. There is no place for these views in the Labour Party and no place for anyone who espouses them. We have a zero tolerance position on racism so there can be no debate as to what action the party must take. These repeated comments are totally and utterly unacceptable and Ken Livingstone must be expelled from the Labour Party.”

After the hearing, Livingstone told Sky News: "I was asked a question in an interview and I answered it. Since then, other people have used it. "These people who want to get rid of (Labour Party leader) Jeremy Corbyn keep driving this forward." He compared the experience to "sitting through a court in North Korea".

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Will Jeremy Corbyn stand down if Labour loses the general election?

Defeat at the polls might not be the end of Corbyn’s leadership.

The latest polls suggest that Labour is headed for heavy defeat in the June general election. Usually a general election loss would be the trigger for a leader to quit: Michael Foot, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband all stood down after their first defeat, although Neil Kinnock saw out two losses before resigning in 1992.

It’s possible, if unlikely, that Corbyn could become prime minister. If that prospect doesn’t materialise, however, the question is: will Corbyn follow the majority of his predecessors and resign, or will he hang on in office?

Will Corbyn stand down? The rules

There is no formal process for the parliamentary Labour party to oust its leader, as it discovered in the 2016 leadership challenge. Even after a majority of his MPs had voted no confidence in him, Corbyn stayed on, ultimately winning his second leadership contest after it was decided that the current leader should be automatically included on the ballot.

This year’s conference will vote on to reform the leadership selection process that would make it easier for a left-wing candidate to get on the ballot (nicknamed the “McDonnell amendment” by centrists): Corbyn could be waiting for this motion to pass before he resigns.

Will Corbyn stand down? The membership

Corbyn’s support in the membership is still strong. Without an equally compelling candidate to put before the party, Corbyn’s opponents in the PLP are unlikely to initiate another leadership battle they’re likely to lose.

That said, a general election loss could change that. Polling from March suggests that half of Labour members wanted Corbyn to stand down either immediately or before the general election.

Will Corbyn stand down? The rumours

Sources close to Corbyn have said that he might not stand down, even if he leads Labour to a crushing defeat this June. They mention Kinnock’s survival after the 1987 general election as a precedent (although at the 1987 election, Labour did gain seats).

Will Corbyn stand down? The verdict

Given his struggles to manage his own MPs and the example of other leaders, it would be remarkable if Corbyn did not stand down should Labour lose the general election. However, staying on after a vote of no-confidence in 2016 was also remarkable, and the mooted changes to the leadership election process give him a reason to hold on until September in order to secure a left-wing succession.

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