Britain’s opposition Labour Party has suspended former London mayor Ken Livingstone in a row over anti-Semitism, as the party struggles with deep divisions since electing a hard-left leader last summer.
Dozens of Labour lawmakers had demanded that leader Jeremy Corbyn suspend Livingstone – his ally and a party veteran – over remarks he made about Hitler being a Zionist in defence of a colleague the party suspended a day earlier over anti-Semitic remarks.
“Ken Livingstone has been suspended by the Labour Party, pending an investigation, for bringing the Party into disrepute,” the Labour Party said in a statement on Thursday.
It said another lawmaker, John Mann, had been summoned over his behaviour after he was filmed shouting “You’ve lost it” at Livingstone and accusing him of being a “Nazi apologist” over the former mayor’s comments that Hitler had supported Zionism “before he went mad and ended up killing 6 million Jews”.
Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the comments, saying anti-Semitism, like racism, was unacceptable.
“It is quite clear that the Labour Party has a problem with anti-Semitism.”
Jewish leaders said the party should introduce a zero-tolerance policy against anti-Semitism, and some Labour lawmakers, including the party’s candidate for mayor in an election next week, distanced themselves from Livingstone.
The former mayor made his comments while mounting a defence for another lawmaker, Naz Shah, 42, who in 2014 had expressed views on Facebook supporting the relocation of Israel to the United States.
Shah was “administratively suspended” from the party on Wednesday pending investigation and has apologised for her remarks.
In an interview with BBC London, Livingstone said neither Shah nor the Labour Party were anti-Semitic.
“I’ve heard a lot of criticism of the state of Israel and its abuse of Palestinians, but I’ve never heard someone be anti-Semitic,” Livingstone said.
“Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism – this before he went mad and ended up killing 6 million Jews.”