In the end it was more “me a martyr” than mea culpa.
This week Ken Livingstone resigned from the Labour Party, before a second disciplinary hearing into his imaginative “Hitler supported Zionism” take on history.
The straw that broke this stubborn camel’s back – when no dry stalk seemed up to the task – came last week when Shami Chakrabarti, who led the party’s toothless 2016 investigation into anti-Semitism, added her voice to the clamour calling for him to go.
After years of antagonising Jews (comparing a Jewish reporter to a Nazi guard, claiming Jews vote Tory because they’re “richer” and rolling out the City Hall red carpet to the world’s worst anti-Semites), it was his pièce de résistance – insisting the man who murdered six million Jews supported a Jewish homeland – that finally put pay to an almost 50-year political career.
Labour’s top brass will have been horrified by last month’s local election loss in top target Barnet (with its large Jewish population) and decided with a heavy heart that their old ideological ally had become too toxic to tolerate.
Not-so-cuddly Ken, hunkered down in his bunker like someone we dare not mention, knew the game was up. But quitting, of course, would never have been his choice. This, after all, is a man who quadruples down on a bad hand rather than admit defeat. A man who applies salt to a wound instead of a plaster. A man who squandered 16 opportunities to apologise during one infamous radio interview last year.
As a parting gift, Labour let him to sneak out the back door with honour, rather than be booted out the front with expulsion.
Jeremy Corbyn called it “the right thing to do”, but if he truly cared about anti-Semitism in the party he would have refused the resignation and let the disciplinary hearing play out in public. That would have been the right thing to do.
Livingstone still maintains Hitler “supported” those who longed for a Jewish homeland. Old Adolf himself couldn’t convince him otherwise. No doubt he thinks the Chief Rabbi is a huge Hamas fan too.
He also swears blind he’s never witnessed anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and has a smashing relationship with Jewish people. “I’ll let you know when I finally find a Jew who has attacked me for what I said,” he told the media yesterday.
He’s even used my newspaper to defend his warped views. He was on TV more times than the Trivago advert when Labour first suspended him, doing his best Neville Chamberlain, waving a piece of paper with an article by a Jewish News blogger who asserted his innocence.
If you start telling bloggers they can’t write that fish ride bicycles, we might as well all move to North Korea so, yes, we published this piece – along with dozens of others fiercely taking the opposite view. Livingstone has been media obsessed long enough to know the difference between a blog and a newspaper’s editorial comment. Wilfully confusing the two exposed his mode of manipulation.
For the Jewish community, his exit brings more relief than joy. The party he leaves behind, led by a man with a default blindness to its fears, remains a cold and an unfriendly place to anyone who claims to be a victim of Jew hate or has a good word to say about the Middle East’s only functioning democracy.
Livingstone is just the tip. Now Labour must deal with the rest of the iceberg.
• First published in the New Statesman