Ken Livingstone dismisses Hitler row as 'antisemitism nonsense'


Ken Livingstone has dismissed suggestions that he expressed racist views as “antisemitism nonsense” and claimed he received support from members of the Jewish community.

In an interview on BBC Two on Friday afternoon, the former London mayor said his recent comments about Hitler supporting Zionism, which resulted in his suspension from the Labour Party, had been distorted by the media and “Blairite” Labour MPs.

He refused to apologise for his comments – which sparked outrage across the country – saying: “You can’t expect someone to apologise for stating the truth.”

But he did later say he regretted the negative impact his comments had on the Labour vote in Jewish areas. He recognised that his comments alienated voters in Manchester’s Prestwich, Glasgow’s Eastwood and the London Borough of Barnet, but argued that the sensationalisation of his comments – rather than the remarks themselves – were to blame.

He said: “The simple reality is most people will vote on issues [related to] income… not about a lot of the trivia that has dominated the news.

“Sadiq was running 16 per cent ahead in the polls before that antisemitism nonsense. Nationally we were 5 per cent ahead of the Tories.

“So I think it has definitely been damaging. I would say to those Labour MPs making it a great issue, demanding my suspension, you have cost us seats all over the country.”

Pushed on the issue, he said: “I do think [my comments had an impact].”

He added: “Last week, a Jewish Londoner stopped me on the street and said: ‘What’s wrong with MPs, don’t they study history?’

“If someone shows that I said something that wasn’t true, I will apologise. But you can’t expect someone to apologise for stating the truth.”

He added: “Almost everybody with a Jewish background knows the history of their nation, knows what happened in the 1930s.”

Mr Livingstone said he regretted the comments because of the furore. “If I had known what these old Blairite MPs were going to whip this up into, I would have found a way of evading the question.”
Sadiq Khan, Labour’s candidate for London mayor, who is set to win the title, criticised Mr Livingstone’s comments as “inexcusable”.

In response, Mr Livingstone defended his comments, pointing to a book by Trotskyist Lenni Brenner, Zionism in the Age of Dictators. He said: “I don’t blame Sadiq, because he was 12 years old when Lenni Brenner published his book about the deal between the Zionist movement and the Nazis…

“What’s remarkable about this is six months ago, the prime minister of Israel said exactly what I said. No one is going to accuse him of being antisemitic…

“I was asked in a BBC interview about Adolf Hitler. I set it aside in about 30 words. And what I deplore is those MPs demanding my expulsion, could have just gone on the internet and found out it is actually true…

“Those MPs who have been trying to undermine Jeremy, who wanted to damage us at this election, blew this up into a big issue.”

National Executive Committee member Jonathan Ashworth, the Labour MP for Leicester South, said: “I think [suspending Mr Livingstone] was the right thing to do.”

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