Ex-London Mayor Ken Livingstone Claims Labour Antisemitism Scandals ‘Vile Smear Campaign’
Former mayor of London Ken Livingstone defended Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Sunday from accusations of antisemitism following the party’s decisive electoral loss days earlier.
The Daily Mail reported that Livingstone, who was himself suspended from Labour for making antisemitic remarks, told Sky News that the antisemitism controversy was “whipped up” and part of a “vile smear campaign” that he blamed for Labour’s loss, refusing to say Corbyn had made any mistakes in his campaign.
He also claimed antisemitism was not a problem in Labour and Corbyn had dealt properly with it, saying, “When he got a new general secretary and said, ‘Sort out this antisemitism thing,’ she did a complete survey of all our members, and what it turns out is one twentieth of one percent of Labour’s members have tweeted something antisemitic or said something antisemitic.”
“They’ve been suspended, they’ve been expelled. It’s been dealt with,” Livingstone asserted. “But the media coverage implied we were institutionally antisemitic and that was completely and utterly untrue.”
Livingstone’s assertion flew in the face of the feelings of the vast majority of British Jews, who polls show overwhelmingly view Corbyn as personally antisemitic. In an unprecedented move, Britain’s chief rabbi denounced Labour as institutionally antisemitic shortly before the national vote. Polls also showed that half of all British Jews were considering emigration should Labour win the election.
It also contradicted claims made by Labour members and officials interviewed on a BBC Panorama program earlier this year, in which members tasked with dealing with the antisemitism issue described an atmosphere of anti-Jewish racism and official denial that drove at least one to consider suicide.
Livingstone bashed Luciana Berger, a Jewish former Labour MP who quit the party along with six others, citing institutional antisemitism as one of the reasons.
“The simple fact is, Luciana Berger, I was glad she left the Labour party, because I don’t think she was really Labour,” Livingstone said. “She’s part of that wave of people that came in under [Tony] Blair.”
Livingstone was suspended from Labour in 2016 after he publicly asserted, “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.”
After he was criticized for distorting the historical facts, Livingstone replied, “I’m not going to apologize for telling the truth.”
At the time, he blamed a conspiracy against him for the controversy, saying, “Frankly, there’s been an attempt to smear Jeremy Corbyn and his associates as antisemitic from the moment he became leader. The simple fact is we have the right to criticize what is one of the most brutal regimes going in the way it treats the Palestinians.”
Livingstone resigned from Labour in 2018.