Former London mayor Ken Livingstone quits the British Labour Party

Ken Livingstone.

Former London mayor Ken Livingstone is resigning from the Labour Party.

The veteran politician has been under investigation over allegations of anti-Semitism, which he denies.

In a statement, he said he was leaving the party because his suspension had “become a distraction,” and that he was “truly sorry” for causing “offence and upset in the Jewish community.”

Livingstone had previously been suspended from the party after he claimed that Adolf Hitler was a Zionist, comments that were condemned as anti-Semitic.

Members of Labour’s Shadow Cabinet, including Emily Thonberry and Nia Griffith, had previously called for Livingstone to be ousted. Shadow attorney general had Shami Chakrabarti had said it was “very difficult to see that any rational decision-maker in the light of what has happened in the last two years could find a place for Mr Livingstone in our party at this moment.”

In a statement following Livingstone’s resignation, 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.”

Here’s the full statement from Ken Livingstone:

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.

We live in dangerous times and there are many issues I wish to speak up on and contribute my experience from running London to, from the need for real action to tackle climate change, to opposing Trump’s war-mongering, to the need to end austerity and invest in our future here in Britain.

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 antisemitism, I have fought it all my life and will continue to do so.

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.

Under Labour’s new General Secretary I am sure there will be rapid action to expel anyone who genuinely has antisemitic views.

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.

I am therefore, with great sadness, leaving the Labour Party.

We desperately need an end to Tory rule, and a Corbyn-led government to transform Britain and end austerity. I will continue to work to this end, and I thank all those who share this aim and who have supported me in my own political career.

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