Ken Livingstone has resigned from the Labour Party, saying the issues around his suspension for anti-Semitism had become a “distraction”.
In a statement, the former London mayor, who was suspended in 2016 for claiming Hitler supported Zionism in the 1930s, said he was leaving with “great sadness”.
Please RT to help counter media misrepresentation â— Ken Livingstone (@ken4london) May 21, 2018
After much consideration, I have decided to resign from Labour. We desperately need a Corbyn-led government to transform Britain & I'll continue to work to this end.
You can read my statement at https://t.co/GDDSp8Q0qN#JC4PM pic.twitter.com/qpDwnxDfcs
He said that he continued to reject the allegation that he had brought the party into disrepute and insisted he was in no way guilty of anti-Semitism.
“After much consideration, I have decided to resign from the Labour Party,” he said.
“The ongoing issues around my suspension from the Labour Party have become a distraction from the key political issue of our time – which is to replace a Tory government overseeing falling living standards and spiralling poverty, while starving our schools and the NHS of the vital resources they need.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Ken Livingstone’s resignation is sad after such a long and vital contribution to London and progressive politics, but was the right thing to do.”
While Mr Livingstone rejected the charge of anti-Semitism, he acknowledged some of his comments had caused offence in the Jewish community, for which he was “truly sorry”.
Ken Livingstone's exit from the Labour Party is welcome, but he should have been expelled. We must now make it clear that he will never be welcome to return. His vocal cheerleaders and supporters should follow him out the door.— Wes Streeting MP (@wesstreeting) May 21, 2018
“I do not accept the allegation that I have brought the Labour Party into disrepute – nor that I am in any way guilty of anti-Semitism. I abhor anti-Semitism, I have fought it all my life and will continue to do so,” he said.
“I also recognise that the way I made a historical argument has caused offence and upset in the Jewish community. I am truly sorry for that.”
Ken Livingstone (@ken4london) remains a towering figure of the Labour movement. He popularised progressive socialism and was labelled a 'Loony Lefty' nearly 40 years ago for his efforts to champion public services, stand up for marginalised groups and fight all forms of racism.— Chris Williamson #GTTO (@DerbyChrisW) May 21, 2018
Mr Livingstone said he remained loyal to the Labour Party and would continue to work for the election of a government led by Mr Corbyn.
“I am loyal to the Labour Party and to Jeremy Corbyn. However any further disciplinary action against me may drag on for months or even years, distracting attention from Jeremy’s policies,” he said.
“I am therefore, with great sadness, leaving the Labour Party.”