Chuka Umunna accuses Ken Livingstone of becoming a ‘pin-up for prejudice’

Posted On: 
14th June 2016

Chuka Umunna called Ken Livingstone a "pin-up for prejudice" today as the former London mayor once again refused to apologise for claiming Adolf Hitler had been a Zionist.

Ken Livingstone was suspended by Labour pending investigation in May
PA Images

The Labour pair clashed angrily as Mr Livingstone appeared before the Home Affairs Select Committee, which is carrying out an inquiry into anti-Semitism.

He was suspended by the party in April after claiming during live BBC radio interview that Hitler had supported Zionism “before he went mad and ended up killing 6 million Jews”.

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But Streatham MP Mr Umunna, who sits on the committee, told him: “You're not a historian, you're a politician and by needlessly and repeatedly offending Jewish people in this way you not only betray our Labour values but you betray your legacy as mayor.

“Because all you're now going to be remembered for is becoming a pin-up for the kind of prejudice that our party was built to fight against. That is a huge shame and it’s an embarrassment."

But a defiant Mr Livingstone replied: "All I’d say is that many of the things I’ve said have been controversial. When I defended lesbian and gay rights in 1981, denounced. When we said we need to negotiate with the IRA, we were denounced. The simple fact is show me what I got wrong… I was just prepared to challenge the bigotry of the day and I’m prepared to challenge bigotry today.”

As the veteran politician once again blamed “embittered Labour MPs” for his suspension, Mr Umunna said: “Pathetic”.

Mr Livingstone hit back: "It’s no good you wriggling away Chuka Umunna… describing me as a Nazi apologist is a lie."

Mr Livingstone insisted that the claim Hitler supported Zionism in the early 1930s was as correct as “2+2=4”.

Before his appearance, Mr Livingstone released a statement to the committee condemning anti-Semitism and racism.

"Indeed my political career has totally opposed any such views concerning any religious or ethnic group," he wrote. 

Speaking earlier in the hearing, Board of Deputies president Jonathan Arkush attacked Mr Livingstone for his “abhorrent” remarks, accusing him of being a “political pariah”.

The former Labour MP said he would be in agreement with Mr Arkush had he alleged that Hitler was a Zionist, rather than a supporter of the movement. 

Mr Livingstone made his original remarks while defending Labour MP Naz Shah, who has been suspended from the party over anti-Semitic Facebook posts made in 2014.

Jeremy Corbyn has announced an inquiry into anti-Semitism and other forms of racism which will report back later this year.