Ken Livingstone has not been kicked out of the Labour Party over his anti-Semitic comments.
Instead, he has been suspended for two years. However, this suspension is backdated to his initial suspension. So he has a little over a year to go. Livingstone does not appear to have any further ambitions for elective office inside or outside the party. Therefore, he does not seem to have any of his political activities curtailed.
It is not as if this is the first time Labour has acted against him. Livingstone was booted out of Labour when he ran as Mayor of London against the official New Labour candidate in 2000. Tony Blair had not wanted this 1980s throwback reminding everyone of Labour’s ‘Loony Left’ era. Councils across the land, but especially in London, had declared themselves ‘nuclear-free zones’ in the vain hope that this would discourage Soviet missile strikes should the Cold War get hot. There were other unpopular initiatives by extremist councillors, all of which led to Labour losing the 1987 General Election. There was little improvement on the Foot-era hammering from 1983 despite a much more competent campaign that was run by Peter Mandelson.
After Livingstone won the mayoralty in 2000, Labour let him back in to run and win again in 2004. The fact that Livingstone had beaten Labour’s official candidate into third place in 2000 was a leading indicator that Blairism was merely tolerated by the party’s supporters as the means to power and little more. New Labour was more about party discipline enforcing a electable façade of unity that lasted about 12 years before the infighting resumed. Livingstone’s victory also showed the cultural disconnection between Labour in London and Labour elsewhere, something that is in sharp relief now that Jeremy Corbyn is party leader.
Labour found that Livingstone had brought the party into disrepute by his words. However, Livingstone has not apologised for what he said and stands by it. Logically, this means that so long as he does not recant, he is in effect continuing to bring the party into disrepute by the party’s own standards. There is no end to Livingstone continuing to do this. However, his suspension comes to an end in little over a year. The inference has to be that Livingstone’s version of history is, in effect, accepted by Labour with a procedural show of a time-out in a sin-bin of sorts as a public-relations gimmick and little more. But then Labour’s response to anti-Semitism has to be informed by a sham inquiry whose report was condemned by everyone as a whitewash.
Alternatively, Livingstone’s continued association with Labour appears to be regarded as more important to the party than his openly articulated opinions that have caused widespread offence and will surely lose the party votes. It is not clear why this is so, apart from the dynamics of Labour’s internal politics that routinely ignore electoral reality. Either way, in the so-called party of equality, Livingstone seems to be more equal than other party members, and especially the Jewish ones.
(Image: Quinn Dombrowski)