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Ken Livingstone: Why I quit Labour

Exclusive: Ex-London Mayor tells the JC he will still campaign for the party but does not want to spend the rest of his life defending his Hitler remarks

    Ken Livingstone Getty Images
    Ken Livingstone Getty Images

    Ken Livingstone has claimed he resigned from the Labour Party partly because of the “overwhelming support” he received from the Jewish community following his comments about Hitler and Zionism.

    Reflecting on his decision to resign from the party, which he announced yesterday, he said British Jews had told him not to “give in” since he was suspended over the remarks two years ago.

    Speaking with The Jewish Chronicle, the former Mayor of London said: “I will let you know when I finally find a Jew who has attacked me for what I said.

    “I had somewhere within 30 to 40 [Jewish] people in the two weeks after I was suspended coming up to me in the street saying that I was right.

    “There were 100 more that weren’t Jewish stopping me saying that too.”

    Mr Livingstone said his lawyer had advised him that if he was expelled from the party for his remarks then any subsequent court challenge would have taken another two years to resolve.

    “Given the overwhelming support I have had from people within the Jewish community and outside it I don’t see the point in doing that,” he said.

    The Labour veteran said he was able to reassure “half a dozen elderly Jewish people who stopped me and asked ‘why did you say Hitler was a Zionist’ by explaining that I didn’t say that”.

    He said he was quitting because his case had become a "distraction" for Labour and he wanted to be able to campaign for the party.

    “This has dragged on for two years now. I’ve had lies and smears just repeated and repeated. I’m 73 next month; I don’t know how long I’m going to be around for...

    “You should do a poll of your readers to see if they want [me to have] a quick death, or a long, drawn out one."

    Mr Livingstone added: “The most depressing thing about my suspension was that I couldn’t campaign for Labour in the general or local elections.

    “Now that I am out it means I can.”

    He said he would continue to campaign for any Labour MP who wanted him to.

    Labour's governing body had been expected to begin a new disciplinary hearing today into Mr Livingstone's repeated claims that Hitler was "supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews”.

    Mr Livingstone said he did not regret the remarks.

    “I did have one Jewish woman who said: ‘I know what you said is true, but you shouldn’t have said it.’ I believe in politics that you should tell the truth.

    “If I had said Hitler was a Zionist I would go off to get my doctor to check that I wasn’t suffering from stage one dementia.

    “How could I say a man who loathed Jews was a Zionist? It is a damning indictment of the media including your paper that this lie is repeated again and again.”

    He said the Board of Deputies should have “invited me to come up and meet them and explain what I said. None of them are going to deny what I said”.

    Mr Livingstone said: “My career is that I fight to the bitter end on anything, whether it is with Thatcher, or Blair.

    “If I hadn’t retired from politics like I did in 2012 I would fight this down to the bitter end. But I have been out of politics. I only stayed on Labour’s NEC because Ed Miliband asked me to.”

    He added: “If you are antisemitic it is endemic, it is in every part of your being, isn’t it?”

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