If there were a competition for the four most despicable personalities in British politics – a rogues’ quartet – my nominees would be Ken Livingstone, George Galloway, Gerald Kaufman and Jenny Tonge. All are vehemently anti-Israel. One is even a self-hater.
The quartet members share another distinction, which I am sure would not cause them a moment’s loss of sleep. Under no circumstances would I wish to meet any of them, debate or communicate with them in any way. Neither would I accord any of them publicity or utter their names, unless circumstances strongly warranted it.
It may therefore seem strange that I would be devoting most of this article to Ken Livingstone. Especially as this odious individual, a former GLC leader, Labour MP and mayor of London, is now a political has-been and a powerless non-entity.
Or is he? That’s precisely the problem. No matter how often Livingstone is defeated, investigated, suspended or publicly condemned from all quarters for his bigotry, his terrorist friends and venomous language, he has an uncanny knack of bouncing back with continuous media attention. Tersely speaking, he “gets away with it”.
Livingstone’s most recent outburst surpasses all previous ones on the Red Ken scale of outrageousness. In endeavouring to mitigate the horrendous statement of the Bradford MP Naz Shah that Israel should be dismantled and its Jews deported to America, Livingstone declared that in 1932 Hitler had advocated sending all the Jews to Palestine. Therefore, he “reasoned”, Hitler was “supporting Zionism” before he eventually “went mad and killed six million Jews”.
Those extraordinary remarks were factually incorrect. Hitler was totally disinterested in the concept of a Jewish State per se. His implacable hatred of Jews, and indeed Zionists, was documented years before in 1925 when he was in prison and wrote the notorious Mein Kampf.
Any later idea of deporting Jews to Palestine was, in Hitler’s evil mind, a stepping-stone towards the ultimate aim of attacking and annihilating them there. Eventually, the invasion of Palestine – mercifully unsuccessful – became part of the Nazis’ longer-term Africa and Middle East strategy. It almost certainly would have been the sequel to a German invasion of Britain.
Not only could Livingstone’s statement be effectively construed as a piece of Holocaust revisionism, it was totally irrelevant. He was asked to comment on what the Bradford MP had said about Israel.
Entirely of his own volition, he introduced the Hitler analogy. It was as if to insinuate (even though he subsequently denounced Hitler’s 1932 idea) that herding Jews around the world like cattle is a policy of repatriation which, uniquely reserved for Jews, might just have a grain of merit.
What were the deeper implications of the monstrous suggestion that Hitler was somehow in sympathy with Zionists? One is the perverse equation of Zionism with Nazism and the inference that the State of Israel was founded on Nazi ideology towards the Arabs.
Another is the libel that Zionists – i.e. Jews – were in some way a part of the Nazi apparatus, positively collaborating with them to form a Jewish State. Even more sinister is the implication that perhaps Hitler was really not quite so terrible after all in his plans for the Jews and it was only his subsequent unbalance of mind that drove him and the millions who supported him to pursue the genocidal “Final Solution”.
Characteristically, Livingstone has refused to apologise – indeed the word “sorry” is outside his political vocabulary.
Even Naz Shah apologised, though probably only to try to save her parliamentary career. Livingstone arrogantly maintains the “historical fact” of his statement, as if that would justify its relevance even if it were true.
He insists that Labour’s forthcoming investigation into his conduct will find that he is innocent of any kind of racism, and thus worthy of readmission to the party.
The previous time Livingstone was expelled from the Labour Party he was eventually allowed back, but only because the party cynically realised that, electorally speaking, at the time it needed him more than he needed it.
If he is readmitted after this latest showdown, it will give the final lie to any suggestion that Corbyn and his followers are opposed in any meaningful shape or form to racism and anti-Semitism.