Ken Livingstone suspended - Summary and analysis of the day's events

  • Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London and a member of the Labour’s national executive committee, has been suspended from the party after making provocative comments seen as condoning antisemitism. It is a significant move given that he is a longterm leftwing friend and ally of Jeremy Corbyn’s (and “the only truly successful leftwing British politician of modern times”, according to the Conservative commentator Charles Moore.) Livingstone made his remarks in a BBC Radio London interview this morning, prompting more than a dozen Labour MPs, including shadow cabinet members Chris Bryant and Seema Malhotra, to denounce him publicly, calling for him to be suspended or expelled. Most of those speaking out are opposed to Corbyn’s leadership and in part they seemed to be waging an anti-Corbyn power struggle by proxy. Corbyn did respond to the pressure and announce Livingtone’s suspension, pending an investigation.
  • Livingstone has refused to retract his controversial comments. Whether or not he did say anything antisemitic remains a matter of dispute - he is adamant that he did not - and the main point he has been trying to make all day is that criticising Israel is not the same as being antisemitic. (See 12.10pm.) But Livingstone made two key mistakes in his key interview. (See 11.01am for full details.) First, he defended the Facebook posts that led to Labour MP Naz Shah being suspended from the party, saying there were not antisemitic, even though Shah herself has apologised for them and accepts that they were antisemitic. Second, he made a bizarre comparison with Hitler to try to explain away Shah’s conduct. He told BBC Radio London.

It’s [ie, Shah’s comment] completely over the top but it’s not antisemitism. Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism – this before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.

It is still not clear what point he was trying to make; perhaps he was suggesting that if Hitler could be a Zionist, being anti-Zionist could not be that objectionable. Who knows? We might learn more on Saturday, when he is next due to speak in public, on his LBC phone-in. But introducing Hitler as part of the case for the defence in a controversy about antisemitism was at the very least remarkably crass.

  • Corbyn has played down the controversy, saying that Labour is not in crisis and that some of the criticism he is getting is coming from people worried about Labour’s strength at grassroots level. (See 5.28am.)
  • The Labour MP John Mann has been reprimanded by Rosie Winterton, the chief whip, for denouncing Livingstone as “a lying racist” and a “Nazi apologist” on TV. (See 3.55pm.) Labour announced that Mann would have to meet the chief whip at the same time it announced Livingstone’s suspension. He was called in because he confronted Livingstone as Livingstone arrived at BBC Millbank for an interview. Here is a summary of what he said:

You’re a disgusting racist, Mr Livingstone ... rewriting history ... You’re a lying racist, a Nazi apologist ... You’re a disgusting Nazi apologist ... Go back and check what Hitler did. There’s a book called Mein Kampf. You obviously haven’t heard of it ... Dachau concentration camp in his 50 days. The Race Purity Laws in his first 100 days.

At the time Livingstone had a mobile phone held to his ear and did not respond properly because he was involved in a live interview with LBC. Subsequently Livingstone found himself at the centre of a media scrum, and at one point he had to seek refuge in a disabled toilet. It has been claimed that Corbyn’s allies wanted Mann to be suspended as well as Livingstone, but that Winterton blocked this. If so, this would be further evidence that today has illustrated the comparative weakness of Corbyn’s standing in the parliamentary party.

  • Sadiq Khan, Labour’s candidate for London mayor, has joined those in the party denouncing Livingstone. His intervention suggests party candidates up for election next week may be worried about the damage this affair will do to their chances. On the PM programme earlier Robert Shrimsley, managing editor of, said that the antisemitism row had persuaded him to change his voting plans in London. He was going to vote for Khan on the grounds he was the best candidate, Shrimsley said. But he said that he has now decided, as a Jew, that he could not vote Labour. Shrimsley repeated an argument he used in his FT column (subscription).

[Khan] is the favourite to be the next mayor of London; he has run the better campaign for the post and is probably the best candidate. By last weekend, I had concluded that he deserved my vote. Today, however, I know that he cannot have it because right now it is simply impossible to see how Jews can vote for a Labour party that does not appear to like them ...

Labour has a problem with anti-Semitism and a leader who does not seem to care enough about it. Until now my religious background has never been a factor in how I voted. But Mr Corbyn has turned me into a “political Jew”. I, like many British Jews, now feel as I imagine the gay community must have done when Margaret Thatcher passed the homophobic section 28 — that one of the two main parties has turned against me.

That’s all from me for today.

I’m sorry all the other politics got ignored today. This story just never stopped.


The New Statesman’s George Eaton says John Mann only avoided being suspended because the whips office (ie Rosie Winterton, the chief whip) objected.

I'm told that Team Corbyn wanted John Mann suspended but the whips office said no.

— George Eaton (@georgeeaton) April 28, 2016

Boris Johnson claims there is a 'virus of antisemitism' in Labour

Boris Johnson, the outgoing Conservative London mayor, has told LBC there is a “virus of antisemitism” in Labour.

Asked if he really thinks Ken is an anti-semite Boris replied "I never used to...he's been guilty of some very serious antisemitic comments"

— Matthew Harris (@hattmarris84) April 28, 2016

Boris Johnson talking to @IainDale contd "There's plainly some sort of virus of antisemitism in the Labour Party that needs to be addressed"

— Matthew Harris (@hattmarris84) April 28, 2016

Corbyn says criticism he is getting may come from those worried about Labour's grassroots strength

Here are more quotes from Jeremy Corbyn’s interview with the BBC.

  • Corbyn suggested some of the criticism he was getting was coming from people worried about Labour’s strength at grassroots level.

The party membership is the biggest it has been in my lifetime. There are 400,000 individual members, there’s 100,000 affiliated supporters, there are three million affiliated trade union members.

It’s a very big organisation and I suspect that much of this criticism that you are saying about a crisis in the party actually comes from those who are nervous of the strength of the Labour party at local level.

Given that most of the public criticism of Labour today has come from Labour MPs opposed to Corbyn’s leadership, Corbyn’s comment may well be aimed at them rather than at people from other parties. (Corbyn’s internal critics may be worried about all the new members coming into the party because their presence reduces the chances of Corbyn being replaced.)

  • He insisted that the Labour party was not in crisis.

It’s not a crisis. There’s no crisis. Where there is any racism in the party it will be dealt with and rooted out. I have been an anti-racist campaigner all my life.

  • He insisted that Labour dealt with antisemitism swiftly.

We are totally opposed to anti-Semitism in any form within the party. The very small number of cases that have been brought to our attention have been dealt with swiftly and immediately, and they will be ...

A number of people, a very small number of people I have to say, in the entire party membership, have been suspended pending investigation. We are not tolerating anti-Semitism in any way or indeed any other kind of racism.

  • He said it was his job as leader to ensure people behaved properly.

My job is to lead the party, my job is to ensure all members of the party behave in an appropriate way. There were concerns about the language used by Ken Livingstone, as there were one or two other people.

  • He said he felt “very sad” about suspending Livingstone. Asked how he felt about suspending a friend, he replied:

Obviously very sad, but there is a responsibility to lead the party.

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn Photograph: LNP/REX/Shutterstock

Corbyn says 'there's no crisis' for Labour

Jeremy Corbyn has insisted that the Labour party is not in “crisis”. This is from the BBC’s Tom Barton.

"It's not a crisis, there's no crisis."

Jeremy Corbyn to @JPonpolitics on #Labour #AntiSemitism row

— Tom Barton (@tombarton) April 28, 2016

It is an unfortunate soundbite, because it is reminiscent of the famous phrase Jim Callaghan did not utter in 1979, although of course the suspension of Ken Livingstone is not remotely comparable to the the winter of discontent.


I quoted Seema Malhotra, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, earlier saying the suspension of Ken Livingstone was a “defining moment” for Labour (see 4.11pm) but on Twitter she went further, saying Livingstone “must go”.

Anti-semitism isn't in just one party. But Labour needs must take a lead in acting to end racism in all its forms. Ken Livingstone must go.

— Seema Malhotra (@SeemaMalhotra1) April 28, 2016

BBC New has just broadcast some footage of someone going up to the front door of Ken Livingstone’s home and tying an Israeli flag to the door knocker.

Man tying Israeli flag to Ken Livingstone’s front door
Man tying Israeli flag to Ken Livingstone’s front door Photograph: BBC News

Livingstone came out afterwards and took it down.

Ken Livingstone removing the flag from his front door
Ken Livingstone removing the flag from his front door Photograph: BBC News

Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to the Movement for Reform Judaism, has said that Ken Livingstone’s record on antisemitism is worse than Naz Shah’s. Janner-Klausner told the Press Association:

I think these two people, Naz and Ken Livingstone, are night and day in how they have reacted. Here is one person who did something very wrong and has said ‘I have done something very wrong, I am sorry, I want to learn I want to change’.

And here we have someone who did something very wrong and has done for years and is in denial, aggressive denial, I think. He [Livingstone] is not an apologist for the Nazis, but I do think that he has a terrible, proven, repeated and long-term record of treating Jews and Judaism in an unpleasant way, and also in a self-satisfied way.

The Labour MP Mike Gapes has also tweeted his support for John Mann.

Agree. @JohnMannMP should be praised not criticised for his dedicated opposition to antisemitism

— Mike Gapes (@MikeGapes) April 28, 2016

This is what the Labour MP Chris Evans was posting on Twitter about Ken Livingstone and John Mann earlier.

Enough is enough -get this odious man, and those like him, out of our party. Disgusting, idiotic comments once again

— Chris Evans MP (@ChrisEvansMP) April 28, 2016

At last common sense prevails -Livingstone suspended -should've happened after his disgusting comments on mental health. He must be expelled

— Chris Evans MP (@ChrisEvansMP) April 28, 2016

I hope the Chief Whip has summoned @JohnMannMP to give him a pat on the back

— Chris Evans MP (@ChrisEvansMP) April 28, 2016

Seema Malhotra, the shadow chief secretary to Treasury, has described the suspension of Ken Livingstone as a “defining moment” for the party. She said:

This is a defining moment and it is right that the Labour party acted swiftly in suspending Ken Livingstone. Anti-Semitism is racism.

We know this is not an issue for one political party alone. But Labour can and must take a lead in seeking to stamp out rising levels of racism in all its forms.

Labour statement on John Mann's meeting with the chief whip

Here is a statement from a Labour spokesperson on the chief whip’s meeting with John Mann.

The chief whip has made it absolutely clear to John Mann that it is completely inappropriate for Labour members of parliament to be involved in very public rows on television. She was very clear about how seriously this was viewed. John Mann fully accepted and understands this.

And here is my colleague Rowena Mason’s take on John Mann’s meeting with the chief whip.

John Mann has been given a slap on the wrist by chief whip, told not appropriate to have public row on tv

— Rowena Mason (@rowenamason) April 28, 2016

This will disappoint those who were hoping that Mann might be suspended.

John Mann reprimanded by Labour chief whip over on-air row with Livingstone

The Labour MP John Mann was reprimanded by Rosie Winterton, the chief whip, it is being reported.

This is from the Press Association’s Arj Singh.

.@JohnMannMP has been told by Chief Whip Rosie Winterton to stop getting "involved in very public rows on the television".

— Arj Singh (@singharj) April 28, 2016

And this is from PA’s Sam Lister.

Chief whip Rosie Winterton has "made it absolutely clear" to John Mann it's "completely inappropriate" to have a spat on TV with a fellow MP

— Sam Lister (@sam_lister_) April 28, 2016

Livingstone planning no further interviews until his LBC show on Saturday

Sky has just shown some footage of Ken Livingstone arriving at his home (with what looked like a couple of bags of shopping). He said he would not be giving any further interviews, and would not be saying more until his regular LBC show with David Mellor at 10am on Saturday.

Ken Livingstone
Ken Livingstone Photograph: Sky News

John Mann has already had his meeting with Rosie Winterton, the chief whip, I’m told. But I’ve got no further details yet as to what was said.

Here is some rather lively video of Ken Livingstone being doorstepped by reporters as he left the BBC’s Millbank studio after his interviews earlier today.

Ken Livingstone mobbed by media in Westminster – video

Here is more from what Jeremy Corbyn said about Ken Livingstone in Hull. Corbyn said:

There were grave concerns about the language [Livingstone] used. We had a discussion about it and decided we would suspend him and he would go through an investigation by party.

Corbyn also said that anyone who claimed the party was not “cracking down” on antisemitism was wrong.

Earlier I said that when David Cameron talked about Labour MPs shouting “disgraceful” when he raised antisemitism in the Labour party at PMQs recently, he may have been muddling that up with what happened when he attacked Sadiq Khan at PMQs. But Hansard confirms that he was heckled loudly when the criticised Labour’s record on anti-semitism last month. I’ve updated the earlier post. See 2.28pm. You may need to refresh the page to get the update to appear.

Dugher says Labour's decision to threaten Mann with reprimand is 'outrageous'

Michael Dugher, who was sacked as shadow culture secretary by Jeremy Corbyn earlier this year, says the decision to summon John Mann to see the Rosie Winterton, the chief whip, is “outrageous” because Mann was “100% right”.

It is not clear yet what is going to happen to Mann when he gets called in to see Winterton, but it is safe to assume he faces a reprimand, or worse. She is not calling him in just to congratulate him.

Outrageous that lab spokes announces Livingstone suspended & @JohnMannMP summoned to see chief whip. Like its 1-1! John Mann was 100% right

— Michael Dugher MP (@MichaelDugher) April 28, 2016


Corbyn says Labour will not tolerate antisemitism 'in any form whatsover'

Jeremy Corbyn has now spoken to reporters about Ken Livingstone, my colleague Anushka Asthana reports.

Corbyn on Livingstone. "He has been suspended from the party. We are not tolerating anti-Semitism in any form whatsoever in our party."

— Anushka Asthana (@GuardianAnushka) April 28, 2016

Labour leader has spoken during visit now in Hull

— Anushka Asthana (@GuardianAnushka) April 28, 2016

Corbyn says suspending people is to send a "message" out. "Their cases will be investigated"

— Anushka Asthana (@GuardianAnushka) April 28, 2016

Huffington Post’s Paul Waugh says Jeremy Corbyn wants to suspend John Mann alongside Ken Livingstone.

A party source tells me Jeremy Corbyn in Grimsby today told Lab colleague: "We are not suspending Ken, unless we suspend John [Mann] too".

— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) April 28, 2016

Livingstone has been suspended. Mann has not, but he has been summoned to see the chief whip, which could lead to him being suspended at some point in the future.

In his comment on the Ken Livingstone affair David Cameron said that he was shouted down by Labour MPs in the Commons recently when he tried to make a point about antisemitism in the Labour party. (See 2.01pm.)

He may not be remembering this accurately. He was shouted down in the Commons last week when he criticised Sadiq Khan’s links to Suliman Gani, an imam who is deemed extremist. Hansard recalls that Jeremy Corbyn was one of the people who told Cameron he was being “digraceful” (the word Cameron recalled today).

But that exchange was not related to antisemitism in the party. Labour MPs were angry because they thought Cameron was engaged in a smear. The Guardian’s Dave Hill has more on this here.

UPDATE: I’m probably being unfair on Cameron. There was a PMQs in March when he raised anti-semitism in the Labour party, and was loudly heckled. But I can’t tell from Hansard whether the word “disgraceful” was shouted on that occasion. It certainly was last week during the Khan exchanges.


Rabbi Danni Rich from Liberal Judaism, a progressive Judaism body, has put out a statement explaining why, as a Labour party member, he was “disgusted” by Ken Livingstone’s Hitler comment this morning. Here’s an extract.

Claiming Hitler was a Zionist is not only a huge historical perversion, but it directly equates Nazism and Zionism. It suggests they share objectives and values; it is guilt by association. It is hard to think of a more offensive linkage.

Suspending him from the Labour Party is not the end of the matter. Livingstone is a symptom, not the cause.

I am nervous that by focussing on one large personality, we are not dealing with the issues which lead him to make such a statement.

The first step is to admit you have an institutional problem and then to set out strategies to deal with that.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews has called for Ken Livingstone to be expelled from the Labour party. This is from its president, Jonathan Arkush.

Ken Livingstone’s comments were abhorrent and beyond disgraceful. He denies anti-Semitism in Labour when the evidence is there for all to see. He lacks any sense of reality and decency. He must now be expelled from the Labour party.

Cameron says Labour 'has got a problem with antisemitism'

David Cameron is taking part in a Q&A on the EU in Peterborough. Asked by Sky News about Ken Livingstone, he said that it was now clear Labour had a problem with antisemitism.

It is quite clear the Labour party has got a problem with antisemitism. I think they have got to recognise that antisemitism is like racism. It is unacceptable in a modern political party and every political party facing this problem has got to deal with it. And as I said to Jeremy Corbyn some weeks ago, when I was shouted down in the House of Commons with cries of disgraceful from the Labour benches, they’ve got a problem. It is now totally apparent that they have got a problem. And they have got to deal with it.

David Cameron
David Cameron Photograph: BBC

According to @deletedbyMPs, an account that aggregates tweets deleted by MPs, Diane Abbott, the shadow international development secretary and a leftwing ally of Ken Livingstone, has been deleting tweets she posted in the past expressing support for Livingstone. They were retweets of tweets backing Livingstone for election to Labour’s national executive committee.

The Labour MP Neil Coyle says some Labour members in his local party want Ken Livingstone to be expelled.

Sadly Ken is not just embarrassing himself, he's leaving @UKLabour v little option but to suspend his membership too

— Neil Coyle (@coyleneil) April 28, 2016

In case anyone is in any doubt what real leadership looks like from a man determined to represent all Londoners:

— Neil Coyle (@coyleneil) April 28, 2016

Hear Ken Livingstone is being suspended from Labour. Local members have contacted me calling for outright expulsion for his dangerous views.

— Neil Coyle (@coyleneil) April 28, 2016

According to Huffington Post’s Paul Waugh, there are suggestions that John Mann could end up being suspended from the party too.

Just when you thought it couldn't get more surreal: Lab sources up north tell me pro-Corbyn forces floating idea of suspending John Mann too

— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) April 28, 2016

Labour confirms Livingstone has been suspended, and John Mann summoned to see chief whip

The Labour party has now put out a statement confirming that Ken Livingstone has been suspended from the party.

And John Mann is in trouble too; he has been summoned to see the chief whip.

A party spokesperson said:

Ken Livingstone has been suspended by the Labour Party, pending an investigation, for bringing the Party into disrepute.

The chief whip has summoned John Mann MP to discuss his conduct.

Dan Jarvis, seen by some as a possible future Labour leader, has also been among those calling for Livingstone to be suspended.

Ken Livingstone's comments are appalling. No place for anti-Semitism in the Labour Party or society. He should be suspended immediately.

— Dan Jarvis (@DanJarvisMP) April 28, 2016

Labour to suspend Ken Livingstone

Labour is going to suspend Ken Livingstone from the party, my colleague Anushka Asthana reports.

BREAKING - Ken Livingstone about to be suspended from Labour Party - aides finalise decision

— Anushka Asthana (@GuardianAnushka) April 28, 2016

The Labour MP Wes Streeting says Ken Livingstone has been touring the TV studios “like a political arsonist”, pouring fuel on the fire. He should be gone, Streeting says.

He says Livingstone is guilty of “complicity” with antisemitism. He recalls what Livingstone said to the Jewish Evening Standard reporter. And he mentions Livingstone’s decision to invite the controversial Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi to London.

Livingstone is still on the World at One.

Q: There have been several calls for you to be suspended.

Livingstone says these are from “all my usual critics”. He agrees that there should be no space for antisemitism in the party.

Q: So you will not leave the party, or stand down from your post as co-chair of the party’s international policy commission.

Livingstone says he will carry on in the party fighting antisemitism.

As you would expect, we have been trying to get some reaction from Labour HQ and Jeremy Corbyn’s office to what Livingstone said. They have not responded.

But Corbyn is doing a visit in Grimsby, so we might hear from him later. This is from my colleague Anushka Asthana.

Leadership team still finalising decision. Corbyn about to lay wreath to mark Workers Memorial Day in Grimsby but spoke to aides before.

— Anushka Asthana (@GuardianAnushka) April 28, 2016

Ken Livingstone's World at One interview

Ken Livingstone is now on the World at One.

Q: What do you think of John Mann’s comments?

Livingstone says Mann does go over the top.

Q: You said Hitler was supporting Zionism in 1932. Isn’t that inflammatory?

Livingstone says it is a statement of fact. Senior Nazi were in secret talks with Zionists to support Zionism.

He says it is a statement of fact.

Michael Dugher, the former shadow culture secretary, has backed John Mann’s comments about Ken Livingstone. (See 12.53pm.)

I don't say this often but I agree with John McDonnell. "If people express these (antisemitic) views, full stop they’re out”. Livingstone?

— Michael Dugher MP (@MichaelDugher) April 28, 2016

What on earth has happened to the Labour Party?

— Michael Dugher MP (@MichaelDugher) April 28, 2016

Well said @JohnMannMP - damn right.

— Michael Dugher MP (@MichaelDugher) April 28, 2016


More from Jon Lansman, the Momentum founder and key Corbyn ally.

Ken Livingstone achieved many good things for London and beyond. But all political lives end in failure, & he should now depart voluntarily

— Jon Lansman (@jonlansman) April 28, 2016

Sadiq Khan is on Sky News now. He says Londoners will be “appalled” by Ken Livingstone’s comments.

He says Londoners he speaks to say the Labour leadership has been too slow to take action against people who make antisemitic comments.

Q: Ken Livingstone says there is a difference between criticising Israel and being antisemitic.

Khan says people will be offended by what Livingstone said.

Key Corbyn ally Jon Lansman says it is time for Livingstone to retire from politics

Jon Lansman, an longterm ally of Jeremy Corbyn and the founder of Momentum, says it is time for Ken Livingstone to leave politics.

A period of silence from Ken Livingstone is overdue, especially on antisemitism racism & Zionism. It’s time he left politics altogether

— Jon Lansman (@jonlansman) April 28, 2016

Mann calls Livingstone a 'lying racist' and a 'disgusting Nazi apologist'

For the record, this is what the Labour MP John Mann said to Ken Livingstone in the confrontation filmed earlier as Livingstone was heading into the BBC studio. Mann was being quite repetitive, and so I’ve left out the phrases that he repeated.

You’re a disgusting racist, Mr Livingstone ... rewriting history ... You’re a lying racist, a Nazi apologist ... You’re a disgusting Nazi apologist ... Go back and check what Hitler did. There’s a book called Mein Kampf. You obviously haven’t heard of it ... Dachau concentration camp in his 50 days. The Race Purity Laws in his first 100 days.

I’m afraid we have had to close comments on the blog. This is something that happens only very rarely on Politics Live, but certain topics attract so much hate and abuse BTL that it becomes impossible for the moderators to cope. I’m sorry that has spoiled things for the many decent, sensible people who comment here.

Tom Watson 'outraged by Livingstone's comments'

Ken Livingstone has lost the support of Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, my colleague Anushka Asthana reports.

I understand Tom Watson outraged and offended by Livingstone comments and concerned about damaging electoral prospects of 100s candidates.

— Anushka Asthana (@GuardianAnushka) April 28, 2016

Here is more footage of the Mann/Livingstone confrontation.

Watch: Extraordinary moment Labour's John Mann confronts Ken Livingstone over Hitler comment

— ITV News (@itvnews) April 28, 2016

Q: [To Mann] Do you think Livingstone is antisemitic?

Yes, says Mann.

And he says Livingstone is wrong. Hitler was opposed to a Jewish state. He thought that would create a Jewish powerbase. He tells Livingstone.

I think you’ve lost it, Mr Livingstone ... What are you on at the moment? You certainly shouldn’t be on Labour’s national executive.

Livingstone says he never said Hitler was a Zionist.

Mann says he did. He challenges Livingstone to withdraw what he said earlier.

And that it. Neil finishes by saying at least Livingstone was willing to come on the programme and answer questions.

Ken Livingston in the Daily Politics show studio talking to Mann.
Ken Livingston in the Daily Politics show studio talking to Mann. Photograph: BBC


John Mann is coming on the programme now.

Q: Livingstone says you were over the top in calling him a Nazi apologist.

Mann says Livingstone is a Nazi apologist. And Livingstone is wrong about history. He should read Mein Kampf, and study what Hitler did. He should not be on Labour’s national executive committee. He should be suspended.

Livingstone says he was right. The BBC should check.

Q; But what’s the point?

Livingstone says he was answering a question.

Q: You seem to be implying Hitler was not such a bad guy because he just wanted to deport Jews.

Livingstone says Hitler was a monster all along.

Neil asks Nick Clegg, who is also on the Daily Politics, what he thinks.

Clegg says he thinks Labour MPs want Livingstone suspended because of what he said about Hitler. It is perverse logic to introduce Hitler when trying to defend someone of antisemitism. Clegg says he won’t be sanctimonious; he had to deal with antisemitism in his party. But linking Hitler with modern politics is contorted.

Livingstone says that was Hitler’s policy when he came to power.

Q: So that’s alright then, is it?

No, says Livingstone. He was just answering a question, he says.

He says that was Hitler’s policy when he came to power.

Clegg says he never expected to see mainstream politicians like Livingstone raking over what Hitler did.

Livingstone says he studies history, partly so we don’t make the same mistakes again.

Clegg says this is “an extraordinarily contorted approach”.

Neil plays a clip of the Livingstone/Mann confrontation.

Q: I have never heard a Labour MP call another Labour colleague a Nazi apologist.

Livingstone says he has had run ins with Mann before.

Q: There are people in the mainstream of Labour criticising you. It is not just your Blairite enemies ... Can you continue as co-chair of the foreign policy commission?

Livingstone says these things normally die down. When people see what he actually said, they will be calmer.

Neil quotes what Chris Bryant said in the Commons earlier. (That is the quote I poster earlier - see 11.42am. It is a transcript of what Bryant said in business questions in the Commons.)

Livingstone says many of the recent controversies involve people who have just joined the party.

Q: You welcomed to London a man who called for Jews and homosexuals around the world to be killed when you were mayor.

Livingstone says he cannot equate those comments with what he heard the Islamist say when he was in London.

Q: Eleven Labour MP want you to be suspended from the party. You are under pressure.

Not really, says Livingstone. He just said what he thought.

Ken Livingstone's Daily Politics interview

Andrew Neil is now interviewing Ken Livingstone on the BBC’s Daily Politics.

Neil asks about various Naz Shah posts. Livingstone says they will be investigated.

Q: Don’t these suggest she is antisemitic?

Livingstone says he has an “open mind” on this post.

Q: She posted a message saying everything Hitler did was legal.

That was a statement of fact.

Q: What about the Labour councillor who said Hitler was the greatest person in history.

She was suspended, says Livingstone.

Q: But you say you have not heard antisemitism in the party.

Livingstone says he has not heard people in the party say thinks like this himself.

He says Neil is talking about a handful of people in a party of 500,000.

Livingstone says criticising Israel not the same as antisemitism

In his interview on BBC News Ken Livingstone said that confusing antisemitism with criticising Israel undermined the fight against real antisemitism.

We can’t confuse criticising the government of Israel with antisemitism. If you are antisemitic you hate Jews, not just the ones in Israel, you hate your neighbour in Golders Green, or your neighbour in Stoke Newington. It’s a deep personal loathing like racism.

One of my worries is this confusion of antisemitism with criticising Israeli government policy undermines the importance of tackling real antisemitism.

Ken Livingstone on BBC News
Ken Livingstone on BBC News Photograph: BBC


Here is some footage of the Ken Livingstone/John Mann confrontation.

Clash between John Mann and Ken Livingstone

— Vicki Young (@BBCVickiYoung) April 28, 2016

The interview is still going on.

Livingstone says you will not find anyone in the Labour party saying anything antisemitic without being expelled recently.

Out of the 300,000 people who have joined the party recently, only two have been expelled for anti-semitism.

He says he was denounced and vilified as antisemitic when he said Labour should recognise the PLO leader Yasser Arafat. Yet 12 years later Arafat was welcomed at the White House.

Asked about the confrontation with John Mann (see 11.51am) he says they did not have an argument. It was just Mann shouting at him. Mann would not engage with the argument, he says.

And that’s it. The interview is over.

Ken Livingstone on BBC News

Ken Livingstone is on BBC News now.

Ken Livingstone on BBC News.
Ken Livingstone on BBC News. Photograph: BBC

He repeats the point about not having heard anything antisemitic in the Labour party. If he criticised South Africa, he would not be being racist, he says.

He says we should not confuse criticising the government of Israel with being antisemitic.

This confusion of antisemitism with criticism of Israel undermines the attack on real antisemitism.

He says antisemitic attacks in London declined when he was London mayor. After he stepped down, they went up, he says.

He says Naz Shah has apologised. If Labour finds any evidence she is antisemitic, she will be expelled. But he does not think the investigation will find that evidence.

He says two members have been expelled recently, quickly, for antisemitism.

He says he denounces David Cameron’s government all the time. That does not mean he is anti-British.

  • Livingstone refuses to back down in antisemitism row.


According to Channel 4 News’s Michael Crick, the Labour MP John Mann told Ken Livingstone to his face outside a recording studio (it looks like Millbank from the picture) that he was “a fucking disgrace”.

John Mann attacks Livjngstone to his face. "You are an fucking disgrace. It's a calculated lie"

— Michael Crick (@MichaelLCrick) April 28, 2016

And here is another Labour peer attacking Ken Livingstone. Spencer Livermore was Labour’s general election campaign director in 2015.

Ken Livingstone's comments bring shame on the Labour Party - he should be suspended immediately.

— Spencer Livermore (@SpenceLivermore) April 28, 2016

Bryant tells Livingstone racists and antisemites should leave Labour

Chris Bryant, the shadow leader of the Commons, has denounced Ken Livingstone. He has done so through a post @ShadLeaderHoC, a genuine Twitter account.

Bryant is the first member of the shadow cabinet to speak out against Livingstone this morning.

Chris Bryant on anti-Semitism and racism. Yes I'm talking to you Ken Livingstone.

— Shadow Leader of HoC (@ShadLeaderHoC) April 28, 2016

Here’s Stewart Wood, the Labour peer who was Ed Miliband’s main policy adviser, on Ken Livingstone.

Ken: "Hitler was supporting Zionism - before he went mad & ended up killing 6 million Jews". Tough to know where to start objecting to this.

— Stewart Wood (@StewartWood) April 28, 2016

Tristram Hunt, the former shadow education secretary, says Livingstone’s comments were “despicable”. He also wants Livingstone to be suspended.

Ken Livingstone's comments this morning were despicable - he should be suspended from the Party immediately.

— Tristram Hunt (@TristramHuntMP) April 28, 2016

In the Commons Chris Grayling, the Conservative leader of the Commons, has described Livingstone’s comments as “disgraceful”. This is from the Press Association’s Jack Maidment.

Chris Grayling describes Ken Livingstone's as "disgraceful".
"He should be suspended from the Labour Party for the things he has said."

— Jack Maidment (@jrmaidment) April 28, 2016

Liz Kendall says Livingstone should be suspended

Liz Kendall, the former Labour leadership contest, is joining those calling for Ken Livingstone to be suspended.

We must not allow Labour's proud history of fighting racism & prejudice to be put at any further risk. Ken Livingstone should be suspended.

— Liz Kendall (@leicesterliz) April 28, 2016

Figures from other parties are now hurling themselves on to the anti-Livingstone bandwagon. Caroline Pidgeon, the Lib Dem mayoral candidate, is calling for Ken Livingstone to be expelled from Labour.

Ken Livingstone has form on this. London is a diverse and tolerant city. There should be no place for division. Jeremy Corbyn should expel Ken Livingstone from the Labour Party.

And this is from the Labour MP John Woodcock, who seems to be calling for Livingstone to lose his role as co-chair of the party’s international policy commission.

Well said Sadiq. Ken Livingstone is the chair of Labour's international policy commission - this cannot go on

— John Woodcock (@JWoodcockMP) April 28, 2016

Stella Creasy and Jess Phillips call for Livingstone to be suspended

Stella Creasy, who was runner up in last year’s Labour deputy leadership contest, and the backbencher Jess Phillips are both calling for Ken Livingstone to be suspended from the party in the light of his latest comments.

Not in my name #kenlivingstone - he should be suspended immediately without ecquivocation. Our #labourfamily has no place for such bigotry.

— stellacreasy (@stellacreasy) April 28, 2016

Ken Livingstone must be suspended from the Labour Party

— Jess Phillips MP (@jessphillips) April 28, 2016

The Labour MP Conor McGinn says Ken Livingstone’s comments on antisemitism are “appalling”.

I've given Ken Livingstone a fool's pardon in recent months. But his comments on anti-semitism are appalling. We can't allow this to go on.

— Conor McGinn MP (@ConorMcGinn) April 28, 2016

If Ken Livingstone changed 'Irish' to 'Jewish' in his quote on this book cover it would sadly be very relevant today

— Conor McGinn MP (@ConorMcGinn) April 28, 2016

Sadiq Khan says Livingstone's comments are 'inexcusable'

Sadiq Khan, the Labour candidate for London mayor, says Ken Livingstone’s comments are “inexcusable”.

Ken Livingstone's comments are appalling and inexcusable. There must be no place for this in our Party.

— Sadiq Khan MP (@SadiqKhan) April 28, 2016

Labour MP calls for Ken Livingstone to be suspended from Labour over comments defending Shah

The Labour MP Wes Streeting is calling for Ken Livingstone to be suspended from the Labour party over his comments this morning.

Ken Livingstone has form on antisemitism and has been tolerated for far too long. He should be suspended immediately.

— Wes Streeting MP (@wesstreeting) April 28, 2016

Ken Livingstone says Hitler was originally a supporter of Zionism

Ken Livingstone, the Labour former mayor of London, has defended Naz Shah in provocative terms in an interview on BBC Radio London this morning. Here are the key points.

  • Livingstone said that Naz Shah’s comments were “over the top” but that he had never heard anyone in the Labour party say anything antisemitic in the last 47 years.

She’s a deep critic of Israel and its policies. Her remarks were over the top but she’s not anti-Semitic. I’ve been in the Labour party for 47 years; I’ve never heard anyone say anything anti-Semitic. I’ve heard a lot of criticism of the state of Israel and its abuse of Palestinians but I’ve never heard anyone say anything anti-Semitic.It’s completely over the top but it’s not anti-Semitic.

  • He said Hitler was originally a supporter of Zionism “before he went mad”.

Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism – this before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.

  • He said it was important to remember the context of Shah’s remarks. She was speaking “at a time when there was another brutal Israeli attack on the Palestinians”, he said.
  • He said the Israeli government appeared to be guilty of war crimes, but that it avoided criticism because “double standards” applied.

There’s one stark fact that virtually no one in the British media ever reports, in almost all these conflicts the death toll is usually between 60 and 100 Palestinians killed for every Israeli. Now, any other country doing that would be accused of war crimes but it’s like we have a double standard about the policies of the Israeli government.

  • He said “the Israel lobby” smeared anyone who criticised Israel as antisemitic.

There’s been a very well-orchestrated campaign by the Israel lobby to smear anybody who criticises Israeli policy as anti-Semitic. I had to put up with 35 years of this.

  • He claimed that Lord Levy had told him that one of Levy’s friends had compared Jeremy Corbyn to Hitler.

After Jeremy became leader I was having a chat with Michael [Levy] and he said he was very worried because one of his friends who was Jewish had come to him and said ‘the election of Jeremy Corbyn is exactly the same as the first step to the rise of Adolf Hitler to power’.

  • He said Corbyn was victim of a smear campaign.

Frankly, there’s been an attempt to smear Jeremy Corbyn and his associates as anti-Semitic from the moment he became leader. The simple fact is we have the right to criticise what is one of the most brutal regimes going in the way it treats the Palestinians.

I’ve taken the quotes from PoliticsHome.

Ken Livingstone
Ken Livingstone Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian


Tory MP Bernard Jenkin accuses government of selling policy for cash

Bernard Jenkin says this amounts to a “lobbying scandal”.

He says the government has watered down its manifesto commitments on the trade union bill. He says the recent concession on the bill was unexpected.

He says that he has been told by two sources that Downing Street ordered the concessions so as to get the unions to spend money campaigning for Remain. He says this means the unions will now spend £1.7m campaigning for Remain.

He says this amounts to the “sale of government policy for cash and political favours”.

What would people think if the government changed legislation to financially benefit the Conservative party, he asks.

This “stinks”, he says. It is like cash for questions. The government is now “at the rotten heart of the European Union”.


Urgent question on trade union bill and the EU referendum

Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative MP and leading Brexit campaigner, asks his urgent question. He calls for an investigation by the prime minister’s adviser on ministerial interests into discussions between ministers and unions and the Labour party, and any deal they might have struck over concessions on the trade union bill in return for union support for the Remain campaign.

Nick Boles, the skills minister, says he has been told by the Cabinet Office there is no need for such an inquiry. He says the trade union bill is currently going through “ping pong” (when the Commons and Lords thrash out remaining disagreements on the bill). He says it is normal for the government to compromise at this point to get its legislation through parliament. He says the unions have always been in favour of remaining in the EU.

Here are two blogs that are worth reading in connection with the Labour antisemitism row.

The allegations against Corbyn and the Labour party are underpinned by an almost comical paucity of evidence, while what evidence does exist not only fails to justify the claims being made, but has itself been systematically misrepresented. There is no grounds for supposing either that antisemitism is significant within the Labour party, or that its prevalence is increasing. But, under mounting pressure, the Labour leadership’s response to the accusations has regressed from dismissive to defensive, to the point where policy interventions from such noted antisemitism experts as Richard Angell of Progress are reportedly being treated as serious, good-faith contributions.

The political logic behind this retreat is understandable, but there is no reason for others to play along. The enraging and – for genuine opponents of antisemitism – dismaying truth is this: a miserable assortment of chancers, cynics and careerists is exploiting Jewish suffering to prosecute petty vendettas, wage factional warfare and discredit legitimate criticism of Israel ...

The Institute for Jewish Policy Research has lamented ‘the hyperbole, bias and conjecture that litter public discourse’ on antisemitism. The allegations of widespread or increasing antisemitism in the Labour party offer ample evidence of all three. They are based on wild generalisations from a small number of cases, most of which have themselves been misrepresented, either to fabricate antisemitism where none exists; to unfairly taint Corbyn and his supporters by association; or simply gratuitously, one presumes out of habit. But while sensationalist and sloppy journalism has abetted the propagation of these falsehoods, the accusations have snowballed because they serve, and are being opportunistically seized upon to advance, real political interests. Briefly stated, the taboo against antisemitism is being exploited by three distinct, but overlapping, groups: the Right, which hopes to attack Labour while directing attention away from the Conservative Party’s internal tensions and unpopular policies; pro-Israel activists, who hope to unseat a prominent critic of Israel and to discredit Palestine solidarity activism; and the Labour Right, which hopes to weaken a popular movement that has, suddenly and quite unexpectedly, wrested from it control of the party.

The Labour MP John Mann, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group against antisemitism, told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show that he thought Naz Shah should be sent to Isreal as part of antisemitism awareness training. He told the programme:

They are stupid remarks, but they are also racist remarks and highly offensive. Either she is thrown out or she is educated about antisemitism and the grave offence she has created.

What I’ve recommended, and I did so before she was suspended to Jeremy Corbyn, and to her directly personally, is that she should be educated in antisemitism in order that she can be one of the people who fights it. And that should include - and I’ve asked Jeremy Corbyn to do this - that she should go to Israel to the Holocaust centre at Yad Vashem and also to Sderot where the missiles from Hamas hit families to get a better understanding of Israel and why her remarks are offensive.

Asked if he thought she was antisemitic, he said he thought her remarks were antisemitic. But he said she was willing and happy to engage, which was a good thing.

John Mann
John Mann Photograph: BBC

Lucy Powell, the shadow education secretary, was asked why Naz Shah was not suspended earlier when she was interviewed on the Today programme this morning. “Sometimes I know people want us to act immediately but sometimes it does take some time to establish the facts,” Powell told the programme.

Powell also sidestepped a question about whether she would be happy to sit alongside Shah in the Commons, saying she did not want to “predetermine the outcome” of the investigation into the MP.

Minister to answer urgent question on alleged trade union bill/EU referendum deal.

It is widely assumed at Westminster that the government has offered concessions on the trade union bill as part of some deal with the unions to get them to spend money campaign for a Remain vote in the EU referendum. But this has not been confirmed.

We might learn more this morning, though. There will be an urgent question about it in the Commons.

UQ granted to Bernard Jenkin to ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the Trade Union Bill and ministerial discussions

— Labour Whips (@labourwhips) April 28, 2016

Yesterday Jeremy Corbyn suspended the Bradford West MP Naz Shah over a Facebook post deemed antisemitic that she made before the general election but his action has not silenced the row about antisemitism in the party. Leading Jewish figures have been saying it’s a serious problem for the party.

The most significant is probably Lord Levy, the party’s chief fundraiser when Tony Blair was leader. He told Newsnight that Corbyn’s team had “dithered” and “taken too long” to suspend Shah.

Unfortunately I have to say that I do think that it’s a serious problem. The lack of sensitivity when an MP talks about transportation of the largest Jewish community in the world, I think it just shows such ignorance.

The tweets and comments that she made on Hitler, I just begin to scratch my head in despair as to how people like this can enter our Parliament with such a lack of knowledge, such a lack of discretion and such a lack of sensitivity.

Rabbi Lady Neuberger, a crossbench peer, also told the programme she thought the party had a problem with antisemitsm.

I think Labour does have a problem with anti-Semitism. That’s not to say that other parties haven’t got problems with anti-Semitism, or that it isn’t elsewhere. But Labour has a very particular problem, and a particular problem at the moment.

David Abrahams, who has been a major donor to Labour in the past, told Jewish News that he was “appalled by the growth of antisemitism in the party”. And this morning the Jewish comedian David Baddiel that he thought the left championed itself as the protector of the oppressed but had a hangover that Jews “are rich and powerful and controlling”. He explained:

This is about the Left and their image of Jews and there is no question, obviously, that the way that the Left talk about Israel is part of that issue.

I will post more on this if this story develops.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: Economists for Brexit publish a report saying Britain would be better off outside the EU.

9.15am: Sajid Javid, the business secretary, gives evidence to a Commons committee about the steel industry crisis. My colleague Graeme Wearden will be covering the hearing on his business live blog.

Around lunchtime: David Cameron takes part in a Q&A on the EU.

As usual, I will also be covering the breaking political news as it happens, as well as bringing you the best reaction, comment and analysis from the web. I will post a summary at lunchtime and another in the afternoon.

If you want to follow me or contact me on Twitter, I’m @AndrewSparrow.

I try to monitor the comments BTL but normally I find it impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer direct questions, although sometimes I miss them or don’t have time. Alternatively you could post a question to me on Twitter.

If you think there are any voices that I’m leaving out, particularly political figures or organisations giving alternative views of the stories I’m covering, do please flag them up below the line (include “Andrew” in the post). I can’t promise to include everything, but I do try to be open to as wide a range of perspectives as possible.


Andrew Sparrow

The GuardianTramp

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