UK Labour defends anti-Semitism accusations

Party leader Jeremy Corbyn says it’s not indicative of a wider problem within the party.


It’s the second suspension by the Labour Party in as many days: the leader of Britain’s main opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, announcing that Ken Livingstone will temporarily stand down.

The former London Mayor appeared on a radio show following an incident involving another MP, who had been suspended for anti-Semitic statements on social media.

But it was his remarks during a run-in with fellow Labour Party member John Mann that provoked calls for his suspension, with Mr Mann calling him a Nazi apologist while Mr Livingstone was on the phone being interviewed.

Still on the phone, and being recorded, Mr Livingstone replied that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler had supported Zionism prior to the Holocaust, telling Mr Mann to check his facts.

A statement from the Labour party says he has been suspended “for bringing the party into disrepute”.

Mr Corbyn, a close friend of Mr Livingstone, has told the BBC racism won’t be tolerated.

“My job is to lead the party, my job is to ensure all members of the party behave in an appropriate way. There were concerns about the language used by Ken Livingstone, as there were one or two other people, and so a number of people – a very small number of people, I have to say, in the entire party membership – have been suspended pending investigation. We’re not tolerating anti-Semitism in any way, or indeed any other kind of racism in the party. It’s not acceptable and not allowed.”

The politician who Mr Livingstone was defending, Naz Shah, apologised in parliament on Wednesday, saying she was sorry for any hurt she may have caused.

One of her social media posts, from before she was elected to Parliament, included a graphic showing the outline of Israel on a map of the United States, with the headline: “Solution for Israel-Palestine Conflict – Relocate Israel into United States”.

While the election of hard-left leader Jeremy Corbyn has led to a surge in party support, it has also caused deep divisions, with members of his own party accusing him of not doing enough to address anti-Semitism from MPs, a claim he strongly denies.

Both Mr Corbyn and Mr Livingstone are aligned with Labour’s left wing, linked to the pro-Palestine movement.

Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, says more needs to be done.

“It is quite clear the Labour Party has got a problem with anti-Semitism and I think they’ve got to recognise that anti-Semitism is like racism, it is unacceptable in a modern political party and every political party facing this problem has got to deal with it. As I said to Jeremy Corbyn some weeks ago, when I was shouted down in the House of Commons with cries of ‘disgraceful’ from the Labour benches, they’ve got a problem, it’s now totally apparent they’ve got a problem, and they’ve got to deal with it.”

Mr Livingstone has defended his comments as simple criticism.

“I’ve been in the Labour Party for 47 years, I’ve never heard anyone say anything anti-Semitic. I’ve heard a lot of criticism of the state of Israel and its abuse of the Palestinians, but I’ve never heard someone be anti-Semitic. There’s been an attempt to smear Jeremy Corbyn and his associates as anti-Semitic from the moment he became leader, but the simple fact is we have the right to criticise what is one of the most brutal regimes that’s going in the way it treats Palestinians.”