Ken Livingstone resigned from the Labour Party on 21 May. Good riddance!
He ceased to be a real left-winger decades ago, he has a clear record of high-profile antisemitic comments, and he has been aggressively persistent about them.
Yet the Labour Party is still blundering along without any open and thorough discussion of antisemitism. There are still people on the left who see nothing wrong in what Livingstone has said. Suspensions, expulsions, resignations will resolve little until we have that discussion.
In April 2016 Livingstone chose to offer comment to BBC London on Labour’s suspension of Naz Shah, who had suggested on Facebook that Israel should be moved to the USA. Shah apologised and was reinstated.
As if it cast light on the acceptability of the notion that a whole nation should be deported, Livingstone retorted that “Hitler supported Zionism”. He stuck to that theme, and supporters said he was merely giving “historical fact” ("bit.ly/kl-16").
This was the old Stalinist “Zionist = Nazi” stuff, with the implicating that suggesting “the Zionists” be deported as a whole nation is just anti-Nazism. The historical fact — that some Zionists traded breaches in the boycott of Nazi Germany sought by other Zionists for Germany allowing some Jews to leave Germany with some of their property — is very different.
Livingstone was a leftist in the 1970s. But in the early 1980s, as GLC leader, he started working with the WRP, an organisation which had a Trotskyist past but by then was in the pay of the Iraqi and Libyan dictatorships, and antisemitic in consequence.
He soon proclaimed himself an advocate of “cynical soft-sell” politics. The occasional left gestures became rarer as his political career continued through to his defeat as London Mayor in 2008, but his attachment to the legacy of the WRP (which had collapsed in 1985) remained, and the antisemitism continued (bit.ly/kl-06).
The revived Labour left needs cleaner legacies and traditions.