Ken goes rogue: Labour suspends ex-mayor after morning of high drama
Ken Livingstone tried to conduct a live phone interview as Labour MP John Mann accused him of being a Nazi apologist.
Labour has suspended Ken Livingstone after an extraordinary morning during which the former London mayor toured the TV studios and antagonized legions of Labour MPs in the process.
Livingstone had set out to defend suspended Bradford MP Naz Shah. But he ended up being suspended himself for "bringing the party into disrepute” after he was accused of antisemitism and making offensive comments about Hitler supporting Zionism.
Shah was suspended by Jeremy Corbyn yesterday afternoon for sharing Facebook posts in 2014 saying Israelis should be "relocated" to America. Speaking to BBC Radio London, Livingstone said her comments "were over the top but she’s not anti-Semitic". He also said Hitler had supported Zionism "before he went mad and ended up killing 6 million Jews" and he claimed:
"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."
The intervention triggered an immediate backlash from Labour MPs, with more than 20 calling on Corbyn to take immediate action against his close ally. But no-one went as far as John Mann, who dramatically confronted Livingstone as he headed into a BBC studio to appear on the Daily Politics show.
As he was being accused of being a Nazi apologist by his Labour colleague, Livingstone was giving a live interview over the phone to LBC.
He told the show: "I’ve got a violent MP threatening me... I’m fine - just an MP being a bit over the top…. Another one of these Labour MPs who’s going a bit over the top…. He’s not letting me to talk to you I’m afraid."
Allies of Corbyn also turned on Livingstone. Jon Lansman, the Momentum founder who helped run Corbyn’s leadership campaign, said: "A period of silence from Ken Livingstone is overdue, especially on antisemitism racism & Zionism. It’s time he left politics altogether."
At 1.24pm, a brief statement landed in lobby journalists’ inboxes. A Labour spokesman said: "Ken Livingstone has been suspended by the Labour party, pending an investigation, for bringing the Party into disrepute."
But there was a further twist in the tale that further infuriated a number of Labour MPs who had been calling for muscular action against Livingstone. The spokesman said: "The chief whip has summoned John Mann MP to discuss his conduct."
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