Labour expels Ken Livingstone over claim that Hitler supported Zionism

Disciplinary panel rules former Mayor of London's comments "grossly detrimental" to the party


Ken Livingstone has been expelled from the Labour Party over claiming Adolf Hitler supported Zionism in the 1930s.

Labour’s disciplinary panel ruled on Tuesday evening that the former Mayor of London's comments were "grossly detrimental" to the party and had brought Labour into disrepute.

The decision was last night welcomed by leading Jewish figures within Labour.

Jeremy Newmark, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement who gave evidence against Mr Livingstone during the hearing, said: “We are satisfied the correct decision has been taken and would like to thank the leadership for supporting this outcome.

“The Labour Party was built to confront racism and as such Mr Livingstone has no place within the party.

“It is disappointing the formal action has taken so long given the prominence of the comments in question, and the hurt they have caused.

“This case was a symptom of a much larger problem – and the JLM remains committed to calling out antisemitism in all its forms.”

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, along with other senior Orthodox and Progressive Jewish leaders, were among those to be quoted in a 170 page JLM dossier on Mr Livingstone’s conduct up until his suspension from the party.

Before learning his fate at the meeting in central London Mr Livingstone said he would begin legal action to fight the decision to expel him.

But he said he would delay his judicial review until after the local elections in May.

The decision to expel the former Brent East MP from Labour was also welcomed by the Community Security Trust last night.

The CST’s director of communications Mark Gardner said Mr Livingstone's “repeat behaviour and craving of media attention clearly brought the party into disrepute. We are, nevertheless, all losers in this, because Livingstone  has dragged our community, Zionism and the Labour Party through the dirt. Now, he will probably present himself as some kind of martyr.”

In an earlier interview with Radio 4’s Today on Tuesday morning Mr Livingstone had attempted to blame the JC for sparking the row by misreporting his comments.

In a bizarre claim Mr Livingstone told Radio 4's Today programme: “What caused offence were those people who opened the pages of the Jewish Chronicle and saw the claim I said Hitler was a Zionist, the claim I said Jews were the same as Nazis and one week later the article saying I had said that hating Jews in Israel wasn’t anti-Semitic. None of that is true.”

Stephen Pollard, the editor of the JC, dismissed the claim, saying: “It’s somewhat surreal to be accused by Ken Livingstone of fomenting an uproar against him by…reporting his words.”

Mr Livingstone was suspended from the Labour Party when the row erupted in April last year when he was defending MP Naz Shah over claims she had made antisemitic social media posts.

The comment that sparked the row, were made in an interview with BBC Radio London presenter Vanessa Feltz. The former mayor said: "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."

Labour MP John Mann then labelled Mr Livingstone a “Nazi apologist” after confronting him on the stairs of the BBC’s office in Millbank.

Labour’s national constitutional committee - a quasi-judicial body which has the power to expel members – had deliberated over Mr Livingstone’s fate since last Thursday.

The NCC has 11 members – long-time Labour activists, councillors and trade union representatives – and is chaired by Rose Burley, a Labour member for 52 years, who presided over the expulsion of former Labour MP George Galloway in 2003.

Mr Livingstone was represented by barrister Michael Mansfield QC during the hearing while Labour’s NCC was represented by Clive Sheldon QC.

The former mayor had enlisted five anti-Zionist Jewish Labour members to back him, including London SChool of Economics professor Jonathan Rosenhead, the founder of the campaign to boycott Israeli universities.

It is not the first time Mr Livingstone has become embroiled in an antisemitism row. In 2006 a High Court judge said he made "unnecessarily offensive" and "indefensible" remarks likening a Jewish reporter to a Nazi concentration camp guard. But he was cleared of bringing the office of mayor into disrepute.

And also while Mayor of London he told Jewish property developers to “go back to Iran and try their luck” - a nation notorious for its hatred of Israel.

Mr Livingstone had earned the tag ‘Red Ken’ through his hard-left leadership of the Greater London Council, which he led from 1981.

He stood for the Labour leadership on a far-left platform in 1992 and 1994 – and became a vocal critic of Tony Blair’s New Labour project. He also found himself regularly clashing with Britain’s Jewish community with his anti-Zionist beliefs regularly high up on his agenda.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive