Listen to Douglas Murray and James Forsyth debating Ken Livingstone’s non-expulsion:
In the past, Labour has been quick to take a stand against bodies where racism, sexism, and homophobia were allowed to fester. Discrimination was discrimination, and institutions in which it routinely took place were culpable for it. But anti-Semitism now routinely takes place in the Labour party – and party members must acknowledge this. By its own definition, the Labour party is institutionally anti-Semitic.
No fair-minded person can read the failure to expel Ken Livingstone from the party any other way. After careful consideration of his latest calumny, Labour’s National Executive Committee has chosen merely to extend the former London mayor’s suspension for a further year.
The case for expelling him is overwhelming. He was originally suspended this time last year after coming to the defence of Labour MP Naz Shah. She had reposted a Facebook meme calling for the ‘transportation’ of Israelis to the United States so that the ‘Middle East will again be peaceful without foreign interference’. Sharing the post, Shah commented: ‘Problem solved and save u bank charges for £3 BILLION you transfer yearly!’ In an effort to excuse Shah’s anti-Semitism, Livingstone told a radio interviewer: ‘When Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.’
Across a three-day hearing, Livingstone has repeated his claims. In a decision announced on Tuesday evening, Labour found Livingstone in breach of Rule 2.1.8 of the party’s constitution, which proscribes ‘prejudicial’ or ‘grossly detrimental’ conduct by members. However, instead of kicking him out, Labour only lengthened his ban by 12 months. He remains a party member; the ban is solely on him standing for office.
This was far from Livingstone’s first offence. In 1984, as leader of the Greater London Council, he accused the Board of Deputies of British Jews of being ‘dominated by reactionaries and neo-fascists’. Twenty years later, as mayor of London, he welcomed Islamist cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi to City Hall. Qaradawi is a defender of Palestinian suicide bombing as a ‘martyrdom operation’ and ‘evidence of God’s justice’, and has issued a fatwa permitting the killing of pregnant Israeli women. Livingstone called him ‘a progressive figure’.
In 2005, Livingstone told Jewish journalist Oliver Finegold he was ‘just like a concentration camp guard’. The following year he said of Simon and David Reuben, London property developers of Iraqi Jewish descent: ‘If they’re not happy here, they can go back to Iran and try their luck with the ayatollahs.’
There are many more similar examples, yet Livingstone still remains in the bosom of the Labour family. Since the election of Jeremy Corbyn, a string of anti-Semitic stories have dogged the Labour party. Shami Chakrabarti lent her name to a risible scrap of paper pretending to be a report into Labour anti-Semitism; it opened with the words ‘The Labour party is not overrun by anti-Semitism’ and went downhill from there. At its unveiling, Jeremy Corbyn compared Israel to the Islamic State and Jewish MP Ruth Smeeth left in tears after being accused of conspiring with the media to undermine Corbyn. Thirty-five days later, Chakrabarti was made a Labour peer.
The Labour party was once great, but it has become a husk. The cause many Labour members have dedicated their lives to has been disgraced. They will be ashamed by the prejudice and bigotry that has come to define their party. But shame is no longer enough.
The ideas that drove Attlee and Bevan, Gaitskell and Wilson, Healey and Callaghan endure – and may, in time, form the basis of a new party. Labour’s original values have been abandoned by the current leadership – but these same values now demand that people no longer lend their sweat to this new abomination. There is a point at which ‘stay and fight’ ceases to be a rallying cry and becomes an excuse.
When Jeremy Corbyn came to power, the Labour party had a choice between the Jews and those who slander them; between Mordecai and Haman. Time and again, they’ve chosen Haman. Now everyone in Labour has a choice. If you are not an anti-Semite, it is time to take a stand and leave the Labour party.
Stephen Daisley is a columnist for the Scottish Daily Mail.