MPs welcome Ken Livingstone decision to quit Labour but Jewish groups hit out
A number of prominent MPs have welcomed the decision by Ken Livingstone to quit Labour - but leading Jewish groups argued it would not “solve any of the party’s issues with anti-Semitism”.
The former London mayor announced his shock resignation yesterday and said he no longer wanted to be a "distraction" from the policies of Jeremy Corbyn.
He was initially suspended over claims he made two years ago that Adolf Hitler supported Zionism "before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews".
Labour MP Luciana Berger - who has spoken in the Commons of her battle with anti-Semitic abuse - said: “Glad to hear it. Should have happened 2 years ago.”
Ruth Smeeth - who has also dealt with abuse - welcomed his departure, but hit out at his insistence that he had done nothing wrong.
“Ken Livingstone’s behaviour has been grossly offensive to British Jews,” she said.
“His departure is welcome, but the fact that he still refuses to accept responsibility for his actions is a disgrace.
“The truth is that Ken’s despicable and hurtful attitude should have seen him expelled years ago.”
And her colleague Wes Streeting said: “We must now make it clear that he will never be welcome to return. His vocal cheerleaders and supporters should follow him out the door.”
But leading Jewish groups the Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies of British Jews said the decision to quit the party would not help Labour as it moves to tackle the anti-Semitism scandal.
“Ken Livingstone's resignation makes it clear that he wanted to avoid going through a disciplinary process,” they said in a joint-statement.
“His resignation does not detract from the need for the Labour party to take the concrete action to counter anti-Semitism that we set out in our letter of 28 March.
“It does not solve any of the party's issues with anti-Semitism, it simply avoids a potentially messy disciplinary process.”
But Derby North MP Chris Williamson praised Mr Livingstone as a “towering figure of the Labour movement”.
He added: “He popularised progressive socialism and was labelled a ‘loony leftie’ nearly 40 years ago for his efforts to champion public services, stand up for marginalised groups and fight all forms of racism.”
In his statement last night Mr Livingstone said: "I also recognise that the way I made a historical argument has caused offence and upset in the Jewish community. I am truly sorry for that."
Reacting to his resignation, Jeremy Corbyn said it was "sad after such a long and vital contribution to London and progressive politics", but that resigning was "the right thing to do".