Ken Livingstone’s doggedness has kept him in politics for 40 years. Yet the same tenacity was also on display this morning in this refusal to say sorry and finally help his party out by burying this row. Instead of using his interview with Michael Crick on LBC today to bring an end to this week’s anti-Semitism row, his time on the airwaves served instead to reinforce the deep issue at the heart of the Labour party. The former London mayor parroted the same lines which ran him into trouble earlier this week. He spoke about quoting history; he also told of wanting to return to his garden and his beloved newts. But where he could have just said sorry and apologised for bringing up Hitler, he found a new source of blame for this week’s row. It wasn’t him, Ken insisted, who was at fault, but the likes of Wes Streeting and the ’embittered old Blairites’ causing mischief. Here’s what he said:
‘If I had known the way all these embittered old Blairites had turned this into an issue I wouldn’t have said it. Wes Streeting knows I am not anti-Semitic. I think it is frankly dishonest of him to push this issue up to dominate the headlines.’
But where it came to saying sorry, Ken just was not having it. Instead he said:
‘I am really sorry to Jeremy and to the Labour party that I got caught up in all of this. It wasn’t me that started this nonsense it was these embittered old Blairites. How can I regret stating the truth?’
Ken also found time to lay the blame at the media’s door. It seems, at least from Ken’s point of view, the only person who hasn’t done anything wrong is himself. And for the Labour party, the longer Livingstone holds that view, the longer this toxic row looks set to bubble along.