Mapesbury councillor says ‘hugely popular’ Ken Livingstone is victim of ‘show trial’
PUBLISHED: 17:19 05 April 2017 | UPDATED: 17:58 05 April 2017
A Brent councillor has defended former London mayor Ken Livingstone after he was suspended from the Labour Party for saying Hitler was once a Zionist.
Cllr Helen Carr, independent representative for Mapesbury ward, said she was “drawn to defend Ken” because he is regarded “affectionately” in the area as a “silly old sod”.
Mr Livingstone was deemed to have brought the party into disrepute and suspended for two years yesterday.
Cllr Carr said Mr Livingstone is a “hugely controversial figure in UK politics”, posing the rhetorical question: ‘Terrorist sympathiser or freedom fighting comrade?’.
“But to me and the residents of my Ward of Mapesbury,” she added, “he is also a hugely popular and respected neighbour.
“A straw poll: anti-Semite or silly old sod?: unscientific, but no less accurate than other, far more expensive polls, suggests locally, he is affectionately considered the latter.
“I am drawn to defend Ken (if not exactly leap to his defence) at their behest and because I doubt anyone else in the Labour Party will openly challenge his suspension.”
She said the case, heard by Labour’s National Constitutional Committee, was a “red herring”.
She added that there is anti-Semitism in Labour – “driven in part by the misguided and largely uninformed pro-Palestinian lobby” – but Mr Livingstone was the victim of a “show trial”.
“[It’s] one more way of attacking his long term friend, ally, colleague and comrade, Jeremy Corbin [sic],” she said.
Cllr Carr – who has a doctorate in anthropology from the University of Oxford – also said that Mr Livingstone “does not need the Labour Party”.
She added: “But the Labour Party surely needs people like Ken Livingstone if it is to outlive his two year suspension.”
Brent North MP Barry Gardiner, who is also Labour’s international trade and climate change spokesman, said earlier that Mr Livingstone had caused “enormous offence and should have apologised” after his remarks about Hitler and Zionism.
He added: “He was found guilty of bringing the party into disrepute and should be expelled.”
Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq, meanwhile, said the decision not to expel Mr Livingstone was “intolerable” and brings “great shame” on the party.
She said members have been contacting her “in despair” and that some see this as “the final straw and have terminated their membership”.
Cllr Carr was elected to the council in 2014 as a Liberal Democrat but left the party in November of last year.