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5 April 2017

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. 

By New Statesman

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.”

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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”.