Ken Livingstone, who served as the first Mayor of London, from 2000 to 2008, and as the Member of Parliament for Brent East from 1987 to 2001, has resigned on Monday from the Labour Party, where he had been part of the party’s hard left.
Livingstone issued his resignation statement, saying, “I do not accept the allegation that I have brought the Labour Party into disrepute – nor that I am in any way guilty of anti-Semitism. I abhor anti-Semitism, I have fought it all my life and will continue to do so.
“I also recognize that the way I made a historical argument has caused offense and upset in the Jewish community. I am truly sorry for that.”
Livingstone’s Labour membership was suspended in April 2016 after he was accused of “bringing the party into disrepute” following a BBC interview in which he suggested Adolf Hitler “was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.”
Livingstone defended Labour MP Naz Shah, who was suspended over a “satirical” map showing Israel being relocated to the United States. Livingstone said Shah’s work was “rude and over-the-top,” but not anti-Semitic, noting that he had never encountered anti-Semitism in the Labour party.
More than 20 Labour MPs called for Livingstone’s suspension, and London mayor Sadiq Khan called for his expulsion. Jon Lansman, founder of the pro-Corbyn Momentum group, called for Livingstone to leave politics altogether. Labour MP John Mann called Livingstone a “Nazi apologist.”
In a subsequent interview, Livingstone expressed regret both for mentioning Hitler and for offending Jews but added that “I’m not going to apologize for telling the truth.” He insisted it was “absurd” to say he was an anti-Semite because he had had two Jewish girlfriends, and may himself have maternal Jewish ancestry. He accused a “well-orchestrated campaign by the Israel lobby to smear anybody who criticizes Israeli policy as anti-Semitic.”