No Laughs for Ken Livingstone As Fury Greets Announcement of West End Theater Show for Former London Mayor Accused of Antisemitism
by Ben Cohen
The former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone – long regarded as a foe of Britain’s Jewish community for his incendiary attacks on Zionism – was at the center of a new controversy on Tuesday after he was announced as the star of a political comedy show at a West End theater.
Livingstone, who is currently suspended from the opposition Labour party over allegations of antisemitism, will appear in the annual show hosted by Matt Forde, a comedy writer and radio broadcaster, at the Leicester Square Theater on December 7. Past guests on the show have included former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Britain’s Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAAS) condemned the invitation. “There is nothing remotely funny about Ken Livingstone’s unapologetic claim that ‘Hitler was supporting Zionism,'” the CAAS said in a statement. In April 2016, Livingstone was suspended from the Labour party after he claimed in a radio interview that the Nazi dictator was “supporting Zionism” before “he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.”
Livingstone has not retracted or apologized for those remarks, leaving his adversaries furious that Labour’s far-left leader, Jeremy Corbyn, still refuses to expel him from the party. In the meantime, Livingstone has dug in even further, claiming before a Labour party tribunal last March that the Nazi SS – whose paramilitary units alone murdered more than one million Soviet Jews by 1943 – “set up training camps so that German Jews who were going to go (to Palestine) could be trained to cope with a very different sort of country when they got there.”
The CAAS said it was “outrageous” for Livingstone to be given a platform on a show that will separately be hosting Nick Clegg and Anna Soubry, two senior politicians from the Liberal Democrat and Conservative parties respectively. “No doubt they will wish to reconsider their participation rather than appear as a warmup the day before Ken Livingstone,” the CAAS said.
Over a career in British politics spanning forty years, Livingstone has repeatedly offended the Jewish community, occasionally straying into open antisemitism. During the height of the Lebanon War in 1982, Livingstone gained notoriety when, as co-editor of the far-left newspaper Labour Herald, he published a cartoon depicting then-Prime Minister of Israel Menachem Begin with a stereotypical protruding nose. Begin was shown dressed in a Nazi uniform and giving a Hitler salute over a pile of bodies with the accompanying caption “The Final Solution.” In 2005, Livingstone sparked another antisemitism scandal when he accused a Jewish newspaper reporter with whom he had become embroiled in a verbal exchange of “behaving like a concentration camp guard.”
Livingstone’s forthcoming West End appearance drew scorn and condemnation on social media on Tuesday, with several calls for his show to be canceled.
Please. Ken Livingstone isn't funny. @mattforde wants him as a guest, but he is then allowed to present himself as amusing and won't be challenged. That isn't free speech. It's a free pass. https://t.co/hf4Ceor1a2
— Simon Myerson QC (@SCynic1) November 27, 2017
Invitation to Ken Livingstone to star in political comedy show in West End prompts anger in those who think he is not remotely funny. https://t.co/rp1eZuOhh8
— CFI UK (@cfi_uk) November 28, 2017
Ken Livingstone should be tweeted as someone who is bonkers because he is bonkers we should all try and forget he exists not give him a platform https://t.co/ll3ZMDvxlR
— Matthew Ravenhill (@MatthewRavenhil) November 28, 2017
Really disappointed with @mattforde, @nick_clegg and @Anna_Soubry. Ken Livingstone is no longer politically legitimate.
— Steve L (@enrages) November 27, 2017