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Ken Livingstone suspended from Labour Party over Hitler comments

Former London mayor says Adolf Hitler had been a supporter of Zionism 'before he went mad' and killed six million Jews
Livingstone leaves St Paul's Cathedral in central London (AFP)
Rori Donaghy

Former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has been suspended from the Labour Party after making controversial comments about Adolf Hitler’s policy towards Jews, the Guardian reported on Thursday. 

Livingstone sparked controversy on Thursday morning when on a radio phone-in show he said Nazi leader Hitler had supported Zionism “before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews”.

"Let's remember when Hitler won his election in 1932 his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism," he said.

The Guardian reported that Livingstone had been suspended from Labour "for bringing the party into disrepute".

Livingstone also said that it is over the top “to think of anti-Semitism as exactly the same thing [as racism]”. 

He was speaking out in defence of Labour MP Naz Shah, who was suspended from the party on Wednesday after she was found to have made Facebook posts in 2014 that criticised Israel and allegedly prompted accusations of anti-Semitism.

Shah apologised in full on Wednesday for the posts, which included a statement that “Jews were rallying” to a vote on social media that asked users to support a call to proclaim the Israeli military assault in Gaza during the of summer 2014 a "war crime". More than 2,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and more than 60 Israelis, mostly soldiers, were killed in the 50-day war. 

Livingstone said he did not believe Shah was an anti-Semite and he claimed that the “Israeli lobby” had led a campaign to have critics of Israel labelled anti-Semites.

“There’s been a very well-orchestrated campaign by the Israel lobby to smear anybody who criticises Israeli policy as anti-Semitic. I had to put up with 35 years of this,” Livingstone told BBC London.

His remarks, particularly about Hitler, have prompted an angry response from Labour MPs, with nearly 40 demanding his suspension from the party.

In an extraordinary exchange, Labour MP John Mann confronted Livingstone on Whitehall as he was being interviewed by LBC and called the former mayor of London a “lying racist” and “Nazi apologist”.

The Guardian also reported that Mann has been called to see Labour's chief whip to "explain his conduct" in chasing Livingstone down Whitehall.