Tom Watson condemns 'incomprehensible' Ken Livingstone ruling
Tom Watson has condemned the "incomprehensible" decision not to expel Ken Livingstone from Labour after he was found guilty of bringing the party into disrepute over comments he made about Adolf Hitler.
Labour's deputy leader said he was "ashamed that we have allowed Mr Livingstone to cause such distress" to the Jewish community and wider public.
Mr Watson said: "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."
His comments came amid a mounting Shadow Cabinet backlash against the decision by Labour's National Constitutional Committee to extend Mr Livingstone suspension for another year following a three-day disciplinary hearing.
The row began last April when Mr Livingstone told the BBC that Hitler had been “supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews”, while defending Labour MP Naz Shah for a post on social media – for which she has since apologised – suggesting moving Israel to the United States.
In response to last night's NCC decision, Mr Livingstone said: "I do think it's important that the Labour party should not expel or suspend people for telling the truth."
But in a strongly-worded statement, Mr Watson said: "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.
"When I read the words of Chief Rabbi Mirvis, who says that 'the Labour party has failed the Jewish community, it has failed its members and it has failed all those who believe in zero tolerance of anti-Semitism', I can't disagree with him. I wish I could, but I can't. I am ashamed that we have allowed Mr Livingstone to cause such distress.
"It isn't just Jewish people who feel disgusted and offended by what Mr Livingstone said and by the way he has conducted himself over this matter, and it isn't just Jewish Labour members who feel ashamed of any indulgence of his views anywhere in the Labour party. This shames us all, and I'm deeply saddened by it.
"Mr Livingstone's unrepentant media appearances in recent days have continued to discredit the party I love. His current behaviour is still bringing the Labour party into disrepute. It is hard not to conclude that his use of inflammatory language to dismiss the fully justified outrage of the Jewish community and others will incite further distortions of the Holocaust in our public discourse.
"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."
Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer joined in the condemnation of the decision this morning, telling Jewish News: "The Labour party has a proud history of tackling all forms of discrimination and has rightly declared a zero tolerance approach to anti-Semitism.
"Living up to that standard requires robust sanctions sadly absent in Ken Livingstone's case. In my view - having been found guilty of bringing the party into disrepute - the sanction should have been expulsion, not suspension."
Other Shadow Cabinet members weighed in on Twitter.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan told the Evening Standard he was "deeply disappointed" by the NCC ruling.