Ken Livingstone’s exit from the Labour Party is welcome, but he should have been expelled. We must now make it clear that he will never be welcome to return.
For his long political career to have ended in this way is, in many respects, tragic. He should have been remembered for his towering achievements as London’s Mayor: the London Overground, Crossrail, the Olympic and Paralympic Games and Police Safer Neighourhood Teams to name just a few. But I won’t be shedding any tears for this is a tragedy of his own making.
For reasons that only Mr Livingstone knows, his foot-in-mouth syndrome has caused enormous reputational damage to himself and to the Labour Party. We saw signs of this during his last stint as Mayor of London when he compared an Jewish journalist at Evening Standard with a Nazi Concentration Camp guard, showing no real remorse or contrition when the offence was pointed out. His latest obsession with Hitler and his retelling of the history of the Holocaust was inexplicable and inexcusable. He caused gratuitous offence to many Jewish people in my constituency, across London and across the UK, without care or contrition.
The expulsion of Ken Livingstone would have sent a powerful message that Labour is taking antisemitism seriously and will not tolerate those who abuse the memory of the Holocaust to offend Britain’s Jewish community. Instead, the abysmal failure of the Labour Party to deal with Mr Livingstone means that he has been allowed to leave on his own terms – escaping disciplinary action and the bar to future membership that would have likely followed. We will now be judged on how other cases, including lower profile cases, are handled.
The reaction to Ken Livingstone’s resignation tells its own story. From the Labour MP Chris Williamson who said he “remains a towering figure of the Labour movement” to those who’ve taken to social media to claim that Mr Livingstone has been hounded out for being an anti-Zionist, it is clear that we have some way to go to rid the Labour Party of antisemitism and apologism for antisemitism.
Actions will speak louder than words. About this the Jewish community has been clear. Many of us have got this message and are resolute in our determination to support the Jewish Labour Movement to make the Labour Party a party that Jewish people can be proud to support again. To say that we have some way to go is an understatement.