Sadiq Khan tells not the Work of “faff around” on Ken Livingstone

Jeremy Corbyn and senior Labour figures around him do not have to “faff around” and must condemn without reservation, Ken Livingstone, for his comments linking Adolf Hitler and Zionism, the mayor of London has said.

Sadiq Khan, said the row over Livingstone, who was this week suspended from Work for another year, rather than expelled for bringing the party in disrepute, had damaged the reputation of the parties, with the Jewish voters.

The discipline committee of the decision on Livingstone, who has served two terms as the mayor of London, was inexplicable, Khan told the Guardian in an interview.

“I say this as a former lawyer,” he said. “You can understand it rationally, if the panel finds him not guilty. But the group finds him guilty, and then gives him a year in jail. That means the way we take seriously the racism? It boggles the mind.

“But then, you might even rationally understand a clement if someone shows contrition or remorse. Nothing of all this. So I’m not surprised that London’s Jewish community, and for good reason, have concerns.”

Ken Livingstone has said that he has nothing to apologize for. Photo: Neil Hall/Reuters

Asked whether he was tempted to contact Livingstone and ask him to shut up, Khan said: “this is not the kind of relationship that I have with Ken Livingstone.”

He continued: “But those who are in positions of power and influence within my party, Jeremy Corbyn, Baroness Shami Chakrabarti, Diane Abbott, John McDonnell, they have had close relations with Ken Livingstone.

“It is up to them to respond to what they have done. They should have said that we condemn unequivocally what he said. Not faff around.”

Asked about Livingstone’s suggestion that Hitler at one time supported Zionism, Khan said: “What I am clear, is that what he said last year was racist, what he said this year, not showing contrition was a racist.”

Corbyn has issued a statement, Wednesday, calling Livingstone’s comments “grossly insensitive” and condemning him for failing to accept or offer an apology for the offence he had caused.

However, the union leader said he respected the discipline committee of the decision, adding that he now wanted Livingstone to contribute to our labour party, trying to win elections and oppose racism in all its forms”.

Livingstone himself has shown no contrition, telling reporters outside the hearing that he had nothing to apologize for. “If I had said that Hitler was a Zionist, I would say sorry,” he said. “You can’t apologize for telling the truth.”

Work has a broader problem with the perception of anti-semitism, Khan said, adding that a report on the matter by Chakrabarti, published last October, “did not draw a line below this”.

He said: “Talking about the Jewish community of London and one has the impression that it was a whitewash. If voters are not comfortable with your party, and your job as a politician, it is winning to you in an election, don’t you think that we should be courting him and said to him: “What is the problem? Let me try to convince you that we are not racist”.”

Khan continued: “You speak to Londoners from all walks of life on a daily basis, as I do, and not. My observation is that people do not feel the Work has improved on all of this.

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“Now, for me, personally, as a politician, the good news, selfishly, is that I’m not put in the same basket, but it’s heartbreaking that my party does not feel like a home for the Londoners of the Jewish faith.

“He has to wake up to this issue. This is not for me to say, Jeremy Corbyn how to be a leader, but I think that what needs to happen is that the NEC, the board of directors of the party, needs to stand up to the plate.”

In speaking of the government’s Prevent anti-extremism strategy, Khan – who has already criticised the policy, said it needed to be “adapted and modified and improved considerably.”

He said: “I don’t want to call it a brand, but the brand is toxic. Many people whose help you need not to touch it with a barge pole. It is seen by some communities as espionage and spying. Prevent is not the miracle solution.”