UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has ordered yet another disciplinary hearing for Ken Livingstone in the latest chapter of the party’s long-running anti-Semitism row.
The former London mayor emerged from a closed-door discipinary panel meeting that decided to suspend but not expel him and refused to offer a categorical apology for past remarks on Hitler and Zionism, specifically those claiming there was “real collaboration” between Hitler and some German Jews in the 1930s. He also accused his critics of “lies and smears.”
Mr Corbyn said Mr. Livingstone’s comments “have been grossly insensitive, and he has caused deep offence and hurt to the Jewish community.” He then revealed that the inquiry process is far from over, adding: “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.”
The party leader was not alone in expressing disgust and surprise at Mr. Livingstone’s lack of contrition as the Labour Party descended into chaos and backbiting ahead of the May local elections.
Labour’s shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti said: “His remarks since yesterday’s decision have overtaken those arguments.
“I am horrified by Ken Livingstone’s lack of contrition and repeated offence which could be potential grounds for further investigation by the party. In the meantime I can only implore Mr Livingstone to maintain a silence and to please stop further damaging community relations.”
Labour MP Tulip Siddiq was among the MPs complaining that punishment given to Mr Livingstone was too lenient. In a letter to Mr Corbyn, published in her local paper, she urged the National Executive Committee (NEC) to meet over the decision not to expel Mr Livingstone for what she called his “manipulations of the Holocaust.”
Deputy Leader Tom Watson said the failure to expel Mr Livingstone “shames” his party and was “incomprehensible”, adding: “This was a chance for the Labour Party to show that it would not tolerate willful and unapologetic baiting of the Jewish community, by shamefully using the Holocaust as a tool with which to inflict the maximum amount of offence.”
For his part, Mr. Livingstone has responded to the furore by launching a campaign of his own called “reinstate Ken”, saying the disciplinary process was not “natural justice”.
Speaking to BBC News, Mr. Livingstone brushed aside questions about the new NEC investigation, saying the reason he had not been expelled was because Labour lawyers knew the party would not have a “cat in hell’s chance” if he challenged them in the courts.
“A British judge is not going to say it’s wrong to state a historical truth,” he said.
Mr. Livingstone said he stood by his original comments and said he “can’t recall the numbers of people” who had approached him to offer support.
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