Labour heavyweights slam Ken Livingstone verdict... and Jeremy Corbyn joins in
The Labour leader has thrown his old pal under the proverbial bus.
After the Labour party suspended but did not expel Ken Livingstone, backbencher Wes Streeting was quick to confront the former London mayor over the decision.
The Ilford North MP went head-to-head with his rival on Newsnight, telling him: "You would never be welcome in my constituency."
He also told Livingstone that he was personally losing Labour votes "hand over fist".
Then angry senior Labour colleagues weighed in, with Tom Watson and Sadiq Khan among those saying Livingstone should have been expelled.
And finally Jeremy Corbyn got involved.
Livingstone was suspended by Labour for two years on Tuesday for comments he made about Adolf Hitler and Zionism. The row began last April when Livingstone told the BBC that Hitler had been “supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews”.
In response to the decision, Livingstone said: "I do think it's important that the Labour party should not expel or suspend people for telling the truth."
But Corbyn was less-than-sympathetic towards his old ally as he confirmed that Labour’s national executive committee may take further action.
He said: "Ken Livingstone’s comments have been grossly insensitive, and he has caused deep offence and hurt to the Jewish community. Labour’s independently elected national constitutional committee has found Ken guilty of bringing the party into disrepute and suspended him for two years.
"It is deeply disappointing that, despite his long record of standing up to racism, Ken has failed to acknowledge or apologise for the hurt he has caused. Many people are understandably upset that he has continued to make offensive remarks which could open him to further disciplinary action.
"Since initiating the disciplinary process, I have not interfered with it and respect the independence of the party’s disciplinary bodies. But Ken’s subsequent comments and actions will now be considered by the national executive committee after representations from party members."
Corbyn's remarks arrived in journalist inboxes at 2.22pm. Earlier in the day shadow cabinet members Keir Starmer, Jon Ashworth and Barry Gardiner criticised Labour’s national constitutional committee for being too lenient to Livingstone.
Watson also hit out, saying: "I find it incomprehensible that our elected lay members on the disciplinary panel found Ken Livingstone guilty of such serious charges, and then concluded that he can remain a member of the Labour party."
The deputy leader added: “My party is not living up to its commitment to have a zero tolerance approach to anti-Semitism. I will continue the fight to ensure that it does, and I will press my colleagues to do so too."
And London mayor Khan said: “There should be no place for anti-Semitism in the Labour party or anywhere else. The Labour party disciplinary panel’s decision to suspend Ken Livingstone but let him remain a member does not reflect the severity of the verdict – this is deeply disappointing.
“As the Labour party it is our duty to lead by example and demonstrate that we take a zero-tolerance approach towards anti-Semitism wherever we find it. Sadly this gives the impression we are not fulfilling that duty. Labour must be committed to tackling racism in any form.”