Press Release 28 March 2017
Ken Livingstone to appear before the Labour Party’s National Constitutional Committee
On Thursday this week (30 March) Ken Livingstone will be appearing before the Labour Party’s National Constitutional Committee (NCC) to answer the charge that he engaged in conduct ‘grossly detrimental’ to the Party when he publicly defended the Labour Party against charges of anti-Semitism in 2016.
In April 2016 Ken Livingstone conducted a series of radio and TV interviews in which he defended the Labour Party, its Leader Jeremy Corbyn and a Labour MP Naz Shah, against what he believed were false allegations regarding anti-Semitism.
In an interview Ken Livingstone was asked a question relating to the legality of what Hitler did in Germany. Ken briefly responded about events over the years 1932 to 1945. In his remarks he referenced the period when the Nazi government and German Zionists had an agreement (The 1933 Transfer Agreement) over the emigration of Jews to Palestine. This led to his suspension from the party.
It has taken a whole eleven months of suspension before a hearing of the NCC has been mounted.
Ken Livingstone denies breaking any Labour Party rule. Ken Livingstone is not being accused of anti-Semitism at this week’s Labour Party NCC hearing. However, some of his detractors are trying to smear him as such. Ken Livingstone has been falsely accused of claiming that Hitler was a Zionist – something he neither believes nor would say.
Ken Livingstone is a forthright opponent of anti-Semitism, having fought against it his entire political career. Both as Leader of the Greater London Council in the 1980s and as London Mayor in the 2000s, Livingstone helped resource the fight against racism and anti-Semitism. He also ensured there was support for Jewish community organisations and cultural events.
In these interviews on radio and TV in April 2016 Ken Livingstone’s principal objective was to defend the Labour Party against false allegations of anti-Semitism. He had no intention to cause offence to anyone and has said he is sorry if his remarks did cause offence.
The Labour Party have refused to holding this hearing in public, despite the request of Ken Livingstone’s lawyers.
Defending Ken Livingstone at the hearing will be the barrister Michael Mansfield QC. Mr Mansfield is President of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers and is well known for representing a series of high profile miscarriage of justice cases in the 1980s, and many families over the last 40 years seeking justice for fatalities at the hands of the state, right through to Hillsborough.
Ken Livingstone’s solicitor is Imran Khan, well known for representing the family of Stephen Lawrence.
Five Jewish members of the Labour Party are appearing before the Labour Party NCC hearing, to defend Ken Livingstone.
Ken Livingstone said: ‘I have broken no Labour Party rule. I am being attacked by the right-wing of the Labour Party because I support Palestinian human rights and strongly back our Leader Jeremy Corbyn. There is no real evidence against me so hopefully the Labour panel will dismiss the charge against me. Only a biased and rigged jury could find against me.‘
Former member of Labour’s National Executive Committee Walter Wolfgang, who will be a witness for Ken Livingstone, said: ‘As a Jewish member of the Labour Party, who escaped Nazi Germany in 1937, I take the issue of anti-Semitism extremely seriously. Ken Livingstone has an outstanding record of fighting against racism and anti-Semitism. This hearing into Ken’s actions is a travesty.‘
Diana Neslen, also a witness for Ken Livingstone, said: ‘I am a British Jew with experience of violent anti Semitism against my own family and challenge the lazy assumption that support for Israel and being Jewish are synonymous. In fact it is not helpful for the interests of Jewish people to be identified with the present policies of the State of Israel. And it is profoundly wrong to label as anti-Semites those who support the Palestinians. I did not find Ken Livingstone’s remarks either offensive or anti Semitic.‘
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, a further witness for Ken Livingstone said: ‘Ken Livingstone is being pilloried because he is a prominent figure on the left of the Labour Party who has actively defended it from attacks based on false allegations of anti-Semitism. As a Jewish person who supports Palestinian human rights, I reject the notion that criticism of Israel and Zionism is necessarily anti-Semitic. Those who allege anti-Semitism against Ken Livingstone discredit the term. His track record in public office is a clear testament to his commitment to supporting the Jewish community and fighting racism in all its forms, including anti-Semitism.‘
- Ken Livingstone’s submission to the Labour Party NCC hearing – can be downloaded here.
- Statements from five witnesses being called to the hearing, supporting Ken Livingstone – can be downloaded here.
- Labour Party General Secretary Iain McNicol’s letter setting out the charge against Ken Livingstone – can be downloaded here.