UK Labour Party local councillors have joined a prominent MP to condemn the “lenient” punishment handed to Ken Livingstone as the party’s long-running anti-Semitism row shows no sign of abating.
The councillors have demanded an urgent meeting with the party’s general secretary as pressure grows for stronger action against the former London mayor who was suspended last week – but not expelled – 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.
The Jewish News reports Labour councillors Nick Forbes and Alice Perry, leaders of the Labour Group of the Local Government Association who also sit on the party’s NEC, have protested that Livingstone remains able to attend meetings and canvass on behalf of the party during the remainder of his two-year suspension at the same time “continuing to share views that are causing great offence to Jewish communities”. They wrote:
“The Labour Party is responsible for running the administrations of over one hundred local authorities in Britain and as such we carry an enormous responsibility to foster community relations, to develop community cohesion and to take a strong stand against intolerance. The decision of the NCC is not compatible with that responsibility.
“The Labour Party relies on discipline to function as a party and elected officials such as Labour councillors across the country are expected to measure up to our high standards. Mr Livingstone a former MP, Councillor, NEC member and Mayor of London, appears to have been measured by a much lower standard and we think that calls into question the appropriateness of the NCC’s sanctions.”
Meanwhile, Labour MP Tulip Siddiq used a piece in the Financial Times to call for Mr. Livingstone’s immediate expulsion from the party.
She wrote that in the past year “countless academics and Jewish community leaders have debunked the grossly manipulated version of history that Mr Livingstone has offered as a prelude to the Holocaust. From Adolf Hitler’s “support” for Zionism, to claims that Jews participated in “training camps” run by the SS, Mr Livingstone’s displays of self-education have been painful.”
The MP for Hampstead and Kilburn finished her article by making a categorical call for Mr. Livingstone to be exelled from the party.
“To be clear, I am of the firm belief that Ken Livingstone should be expelled from Labour immediately. Just because someone was once mayor of London should not afford any special protection for their offensive words, whichever party they claim to represent.”
Follow Simon Kent on Twitter: Follow @SunSimonKent or e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org