David Miliband: I grieve for Labour after 'unspeakable' Ken Livingstone row

Posted On: 
5th April 2017

David Miliband has said he “grieves” for the current state of the Labour party, describing the latest anti-Semitism row as an “unspeakable state of affairs”. 

Former foreign secretary David Miliband at a security conference in Munich
Matthias Balk/DPA/PA Images

The former foreign secretary said people believed Labour was “going backwards” under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and urged him to reach out to supporters of other parties.

Mr Miliband, who now heads the New York-based International Rescue Committee charity after he left Parliament following an unsuccessful campaign to lead Labour, expressed dismay at the controversy about Ken Livingstone’s continued comments about Adolf Hitler and Zionism.

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Speaking to BBC Radio 5live’s Emma Barnett show before Labour announced its decision not to expel Mr Livingstone, Mr Miliband said: “One of the reasons I grieve for the state of the Labour party is I never believed we would see the day when anti-Semitism and Labour were being discussed in the same sentence.

“That is an unspeakable state of affairs. I think that every single person in the Labour party needs to be absolutely clear that there should never be a day when those words anti-Semitism and Labour end up in the same sentence.”

Labour was struck by a series of anti-Semitism controversies last year, leading to the party commissioning a review by now-Shadow Cabinet minister Shami Chakrabarti – though her report was branded a "whitewash" by critics. 

Mr Livingstone was suspended by the party last April after he said Hitler was "supporting Zionism... before he went mad". Yesterday the party found him guilty on three counts of bringing the party into disrepute but did not expel him. 

Mr Miliband has been consistently linked with a return to Parliament and he said he was still “very committed to Labour politics”.

He refused to be drawn on Mr Corbyn’s future, but urged him to work to expand the appeal of the party.

“The big thing in politics is not to define your own reality and then fits the facts to it; it's to look at the world in a clear way and apply your values,” he said.

“Obviously the great fear for Labour supporters is the public perceive us to be going backwards... my quarrel is not with Jeremy Corbyn's personality, it's with the strategy.”

The former South Shields MP added: “We have got to recognise that one of the things that all political parties have got to do is reach beyond their tribe. If political parties just become ‘tribal’ then they become a sect and that is very dangerous.”