Labour members 'ripping up membership cards' in disgust at Ken Livingstone ruling, say furious MPs

Ben Kentish
Ken Livingstone was accused of anti-Semitism after claiming Adolf Hitler had supported Zionism

Labour MPs have slammed their party’s decision not to expel Ken Livingstone for making comments that were widely interpreted as anti-Semitic.

The former London mayor was let off with only a two-year suspension from holding office, despite a disciplinary panel finding him guilty on three different charges of making comments that were “grossly detrimental” to the Labour Party. He has already served one year, having been suspended for 11 months.

The accusations relate to remarks made in April 2016 in which Mr Livingstone claimed Adolf Hitler had “supported Zionism…before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews”.

The Independent understands Mr Livingstone will now be re-instated as a Labour member, having initially been suspended pending an investigation, and will be able to vote in party elections and attend some local meetings.

The decision prompted outrage from a number of MPs.

“This is not a serious sanction for the serious damage that has been done to Labour”, Wes Streeting, MP for Ilford North, told The Independent. “It makes a mockery of the claim we take a zero- tolerance approach to anti-Semitism and people who defend anti-Semitism.

“In effect, having accepted that what Ken has done has brought the party into disrepute, he’s been given the equivalent of being banned from being his local branch secretary. That won’t be a great loss to his local party or to Ken.

“Labour MPs are already aware of party members cutting up their membership cards in disgust. My message to Jewish Labour members and supporters is that there are still a majority of decent Labour Party people who are determined to fight to restore Labour’s credibility as a genuine champion of equality."

Other MPs took to social media to voice their criticism.

Lisa Nandy, tipped by some as a future leader of the party, said: “Standing against racism is one of the many reasons I'm proud to be in the Labour Party. Today is a sad day for this movement.”

Tulip Siddiq, who represents Hampstead and Kilburn, called the ruling “absolutely ridiculous” and asked: “Why has this man not been expelled?”

John Woodcook called the decision “pathetic” while Luciana Berger, who has been the victim of anti-Semitic abuse online, said it was “appalling” and marked ”a new low” for the party.

“Why is anti-Semitism being treated differently from any other form of racism?” she asked.

Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy called the decision “very troubling”. “What more does he have to say or do to be told there is no place for him in Labour movement?”, she added.

The Jewish Labour Movement said in a statement: "One year suspension is insufficient for a party the claims zero tolerance on anti-Semitism.

"This is a betrayal of our party's values. One year suspension allows for a revolving door for repeat offenders."

Michael Dugher, who previously served as Shadow Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport under Jeremy Corbyn, said: "Labour have spent 12 months investigating what to every sensible person is an open-and-shut case. This looks like an embarrassing fudge. The Jewish Board of Deputies said it was anti-Semitism, as did the Holocaust Education Trust, the Jewish Labour Movement and the chief rabbi.

"Is the party really saying it knows more about anti-Semitism than the chief rabbi? The current reluctance of the party to apparently take swift and severe action against Livingstone does us no credit whatsoever."

Mr Livingstone remained defiant, insisting the allegations against him were “nonsense”.

“Today’s Labour Party panel extended my suspension for another year because of my political views, not because I have done anything to harm the Labour Party”, he said.

Speaking outside the hearing, Mr Livingstone compared the process to “sitting through a court in North Korea”.

Asked if he wanted to apologise to Jewish people who had been offended by his comments, the former London mayor replied: “I apologise for the offence caused by those Labour MPs who lied and said I said Hitler was a Zionist”.

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