UK's Labour Party suspends ex-London mayor Livingstone over Hitler remarks

Published 28.04.2016 19:23
UK's Labour Party on April 28, 2016, suspended former London mayor Livingstone in a rapidly escalating row over anti-Semitism that is raising tensions within the party. (AFP Photo)
UK's Labour Party on April 28, 2016, suspended former London mayor Livingstone in a rapidly escalating row over anti-Semitism that is raising tensions within the party. (AFP Photo)

Britain's opposition Labour Party on Thursday suspended former London mayor Ken Livingstone after he said Adolf Hitler supported Zionism, in a furious row over anti-Semitism that is dividing the party.

"Ken Livingstone has been suspended by the Labour Party, pending an investigation, for bringing the party into disrepute," a Labour spokesman said.

Livingstone told BBC radio: "When Hitler won his election in 1932 his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews".

"I have been in the Labour Party for 40 years and I have never heard anyone say anything anti-Semitic.

"I have heard a lot of criticism for the state of Israel and its abuse of Palestinians, but I have never heard someone be anti-Semitic," he added.

He was defending Labour lawmaker Naz Shah, who was suspended on Wednesday for sharing allegedly anti-Semitic posts on social media amid growing claims that the party under veteran socialist leader Jeremy Corbyn has a problem in which criticism of Israel has strayed into anti-Semitism.

Shah told parliament's lower House of Commons that she "profoundly" regretted the posts made in 2014, before she became a lawmaker.

She shared a graphic of Israel superimposed onto the United States under the words "Solution for Israel-Palestine Conflict -- Relocate Israel into United States", adding the comment: "Problem solved."

She also used the hashtag #IsraelApartheid above a quote saying "Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal".

- 'Nazi apologist' -

More than 20 Labour MPs had earlier called on Corbyn to suspend Livingstone following his BBC interview.

Sadiq Khan, Labour's candidate to become the next London mayor, called the remarks "appalling and inexcusable", adding: "There must be no place for this in our party".

Backbench MP John Mann confronted Livingstone in a face-to-face row caught on camera, calling him a "Nazi apologist" and a "disgusting racist".

"He is a Nazi apologist and he's a worse historian than he is a politician," Mann, who is to be disciplined by the party over the confrontation, later told BBC television.

Livingstone accused Mann of going "completely over the top."

Former party leadership contender Liz Kendall earlier tweeted that "Ken Livingstone should be suspended".

She is one of many critics of Livingstone who hail from Labour's centrist rump, exposing the party's deeper ideological rifts.

Livingstone -- known as 'Red Ken' by the British media due to his far-left views -- has been a colourful and controversial personality in British politics for decades.

In 2005, he compared a Jewish journalist to a concentration camp guard and was suspended from office as the mayor of London.

He once called US President George W. Bush "the greatest threat to life on this planet".

Tony Blair led Labour to a general election victory in 1997, pledging to create a directly-elected London mayor. But the prime minister blocked Livingstone's nomination in 2000, deeming him too left-wing.

Livingstone stood as an independent and won, although he was kicked out of Labour for running against their official candidate.

He was later reinstated just before winning his second term in 2004 despite vocal opposition to the war in Iraq.

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