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Jeremy Corbyn urges Ken Livingstone to end Hitler debate amid new probe

Labour is to launch a new probe into Ken Livingstone's behaviour in the wake of his suspension from the party over controversial comments regarding Adolf Hitler and Zionism, Jeremy Corbyn has said.

After a decision not to expel Mr Livingstone provoked uproar among MPs and senior members of the shadow cabinet, Mr Corbyn said the party's National Executive Committee would investigate the ex-London mayor's comments since the disciplinary decision was announced.

A defiant Mr Livingstone insisted he had simply been telling the truth and warned he would take legal action against the party if it tried to exclude him.

Mr Corbyn told the Press Association: "I think what he said was unacceptable and was offensive to the community.

"I'm asking him to apologise for offences he has caused but also to desist from this public debate on these issues and recognise that we need to oppose anti-Semitism, as we do any form of racism."

But Mr Livingstone hit back, telling LBC radio: "If then there is another hearing, it does expel me, it will go for judicial review and it will be resolved in a court which is open to the press and public unlike these Labour disciplinary things which take place in private."

He said Mr Corbyn had launched the new investigation after coming under pressure from "forces inside and outside the Labour Party" angered by the ruling that he should be suspended for another year rather than expelled altogether.

"There is undoubtedly a lot of pressure. You have had not just Labour MPs but the Chief Rabbi all denouncing this decision," he said.

"The simple fact is I am sure there has been a lot of pressure on Jeremy from forces inside and outside the Labour Party saying 'We don't like the result the committee came to'."

In a statement, Mr Corbyn, a long-time ally of the ex-mayor, said it was "deeply disappointing" Mr Livingstone had failed to acknowledge or apologise for the hurt his comments had caused.

"Many people are understandably upset that he has continued to make offensive remarks which could open him to further disciplinary action.

"Since initiating the disciplinary process, I have not interfered with it and respect the independence of the party's disciplinary bodies.

"But Ken's subsequent comments and actions will now be considered by the National Executive Committee after representations from party members."

The intervention came as more than 30 Labour MPs - including former leader Ed Miliband publicly attacked the ruling of the party's disciplinary panel, while deputy leader Tom Watson said: "This shames us all."

Mr Livingstone was suspended in April last year after claiming Hitler supported Zionism in the 1930s before he ''went mad and ended up killing six million Jews''.

In his defence he argued he had never said Hitler was a Zionist, only that Hitler had supported Zionism at one time.

Mr Watson's outspoken condemnation of the "incomprehensible" disciplinary ruling came after the Chief Rabbi accused the party of "failing the Jewish community" by not expelling the ex-London mayor over the controversial remarks.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said: "This was a chance for the Labour Party to show that it would not tolerate wilful and unapologetic baiting of the Jewish community, by shamefully using the Holocaust as a tool with which to inflict the maximum amount of offence."

Mr Watson said it is "incomprehensible" that members of the panel had found Mr Livingstone guilty of such serious charges, and then concluded he could remain a member of the party".

"I am ashamed that we have allowed Mr Livingstone to cause such distress. This shames us all, and I'm deeply saddened by it," he said

Labour's former foreign secretary David Miliband told BBC Radio 5 Live: "One of the reasons I grieve for the state of the Labour Party is I never believed we would see the day when anti-Semitism and Labour were being discussed in the same sentence.

"That is an unspeakable state of affairs."

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