John Mann

Livingstone decision is one of Labour's darkest hours

The disciplinary panel bottled it - not expelling the former London mayor from the party has inspired racists and antisemites

April 05, 2017 13:05

In 1984 during the miners’ strike, I was asked to look after three striking miners sent to London by the National Union of Miners (NUM) to raise funds. I worked closely with all three on a virtually daily basis.

One of the three, a huge Sheffield miner, told me he had been sent down to the capital in order to stop him over-turning police cars in mining villages. He spoke at a rally in north London and in doing so described the Tory government as "a bunch of rich Jewish b****rds". Complaints were made by some present and the NUM informed me and him that he would have to return home immediately.

There was no inquiry and no hesitation. It was summary justice and this huge man broke down crying in front of me, begging forgiveness for his ignorance.

Now 30 years on we have the contrast with Ken Livingstone. Unlike that Sheffield miner, he has met many Jewish people. He understands the nuances of language. He was mayor of a city with thousands of Jewish residents. Yet in 2012 at a meeting of London-based Jewish activists, Livingstone said that Jews would not vote for him because they were wealthy. Since then he has indulged in Holocaust revisionism with the effect of emboldening far-right and far-left conspiracists.

Well, Livingstone will not be allowed to go unchallenged with his fake history.

The Labour National Constitutional Committee (NCC) panel that heard the case should at least be congratulated for the correct ruling, but predictably they bottled the punishment. Livingstone has brought the party into disrepute and emphatically so, but it does not end there. He has continued, unapologetically, to dig himself into a further Holocaust revisionism hole and in doing so is damaging the Labour Party.

Make no mistake. This is one of Labour’s darkest hours. When this party was formed, my family helped set up the Leeds Labour Party at the turn of the last century, and at great personal cost due to the discriminatory practices of Liberal-supporting factory owners. Jewish workers were a fundamental part of that movement. This decision spits in the face of those pioneers and generations of Jewish Labour and trade union heroes who have been a cornerstone of Labour though its history.

Livingstone and his politics have nothing in common with them, me or the Labour Party. I am ashamed of my party and I apologise to my parents, my grandparents and my great grandparents for what our party has become.

In the wake of this bottled decision, I have been receiving emails from those most emboldened by it. I have been asked how much the Jewish lobby will be remunerating me by, why Jewish votes are so priceless and congratulated for “not cringing to…subhumans”. A cursory search of Twitter and one will find similar comments with Holocaust denial and other foul racism. One supposedly Labour-supporting group posted a message on Facebook stating the decision to further suspend Livingstone was “manufactured in Tel Aviv” a comment straight out of the far-right handbook. The Labour Party should be a force for good but what happened yesterday has inspired racists and antisemites. We will have to act.

Holocaust revisionism – and this is what Livingstone has indulged in – seeks to demean or undermine what happened to Jews and others at the hands of the Nazis. Decent people will rightly be horrified by it. Attempts by Livingstone or others to gas light what he said must be resisted. He said Hitler was supporting Zionism, look up Zionist in the dictionary and you’ll find it explained as a supporter of Zionism. This was Holocaust revisionism plain and simple. A pernicious form of anti-Jewish hatred. Antisemitism should not be treated differently to any other form of racism.

There is no choice. The leadership of the party must act and review the decision. We will fight back relentlessly against the Jew haters. Most importantly, I call for anyone that has ever supported Labour to join and help stamp out the antisemites. Now is the time for the brave to step forward. 

John Mann is Labour MP for Bassetlaw and chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism


April 05, 2017 13:05

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