That’s all for this evening. Here’s a summary of the day’s events:
- Ken Livingstone announced he was resigning from the Labour party, saying the row over his suspension for alleged antisemitism has become a distraction. The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, called the news “sad”, but said it was the “right thing to do”.
- Sir Nick Clegg, the former Lib Dem deputy prime minister, has said the UK should seek to revoke article 50 to delay Brexit for a year or more. (See 5.15pm.)
- John Bercow, the Commons speaker, has said that his comment about a “stupid woman” in the Commons last week was a criticism of the way the government was timetabling business, not a personal attack on Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the Commons. He declined to apologise for what he said. (See 4.50pm and 5.03pm.)
- Theresa May has said that the UK wants to remain part of key EU science projects after Brexit and will pay money to do so. She made the comment in a major speech on science and industrial policy. (See 2.59pm.)
- May has said that, if the UK does need to remain bound by the EU’s common external tariff after the transition ends in December 2020 a “backstop”, it will only be “in a very limited set of circumstances for a limited time”. Asked about this in the Q&A after her speech, she said:
The European Commission between December and March outlined their backstop solution. That was unacceptable to the UK government, I think it will be unacceptable to any UK government because it effectively put a border down the Irish Sea.
What we are proposing is an alternative backstop proposal but nobody wants this to be the solution that is achieved.
We want to achieve the right solution to our own border relationship with the European Union.
If it is necessary it will be in a very limited set of circumstances for a limited time but we are working on achieving that commitment to Northern Ireland through our overall relationship with the European Union.
Some senior Labour figures have been offering their reactions to the news of Livingstone’s resignation:
Ruth Smeeth MP
Good riddance Ken. pic.twitter.com/YnPApTQhJh
May 21, 2018
Wes Streeting MP
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.
May 21, 2018
So glad to finally see the back of Ken Divisive Livingstone. There’s no space for him and his abhorrent views in my Labour Party.
May 21, 2018
Chris Williamson MP
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.
May 21, 2018
As well as the Conservative MP, James Cleverly:
After all his talk of tackling anti-Semitism, Jeremy Corbyn couldn’t even bring himself to sack Ken Livingstone.
People will note that Corbyn’s response to Livingstone’s years of vile comments about Jews and Hitler was to say “Ken Livingstone’s resignation is sad”!
May 21, 2018
Continuing his round of media interviews after the announcement of his resignation from Labour, Livingstone has told Sky News the party’s disciplinary structure is dominated by “right-wingers”.
He also offered support to a former party activist, Marc Wadsworth, who was expelled for accusing the Jewish Labour MP, Ruth Smeeth, of working “hand in hand” with a Daily Telegraph journalist. Claiming that Jewish people exert control over the media is a common antisemitic trope. Wadsworth has insisted he did not know Smeeth’s background when he made the comments.
Asked if he felt he was going to be subjected to a Kangaroo court, Livingstone said:
Well, yeah but, unfortunately, this disciplinary panel structure that was set up under Tony Blair is filled with old right-wingers, who have been expelling lefties like me for years. Now, Jeremy’s slowly getting a grip on that but it takes a lot of elections to change the balance of that.
And so, this is going to go on. We saw last week Marc Wadsworth being expelled simply for making a criticism of a Labour MP.
But it will change. Jeremy will get hold of this disciplinary procedure and the simple fact is: I remember my lawyer telling me that, if I’d gone to court, I had a 99% chance of winning because I simply stated historical fact. But, in this world of fake news, immediately that was all distorted.
Livingstone was also asked if he felt he had been a victim during the row that has surrounded his comments.
Well yeah, I mean, literally, one of the things that really gave me strength to get through all this was, in the weeks after my suspension two years ago, somewhere between 30 and 40 Jewish people came up to me on the street and said: ‘We know what you said is true, don’t give in’. One woman said to me: ‘Don’t these MPs read their history?’ Sadly, they don’t.
The Campaign Against Antisemitism has demanded that Jeremy Corbyn confirm Ken Livingstone will never be readmitted to the Labour party. Joe Glasman, its head of political and government investigations, said:
Even with the resignation of Ken Livingstone, the Labour party is growing worse. Jeremy Corbyn has already rubbed salt into the wound by saying that Mr Livingstone’s departure makes him ‘sad’ and is still trying to promote Mr Livingstone’s defender, Martha Osamor, to the House of Lords.
Just today, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, run by senior Labour figures including the incoming Chair of Labour’s Disputes Panel passed a resolution backing Mr Livingstone and calling for the reinstatement of Marc Wadsworth who was expelled for accusing a Jewish Labour MP of orchestrating a media conspiracy.
The Labour party’s antisemitism problem seems to be growing, not receding. Perhaps, had the Labour party expelled Mr Livingstone when it had the chance, that might have started to change.
Mr Corbyn must apologise for his statement, and confirm immediately that Mr Livingstone will never be readmitted to the party.
Livingstone, who is understood to have taken the decision to resign independently, has hinted that he is unlikely to seek reinstatement, citing his age.
This article, written by my colleague Peter Beaumont shortly after the row erupted, is instructive background on Livingstone’s comments:
Livingstone’s resignation comes a little more than a week after Labour’s shadow attorney general, Shami Chakrabarti, said he should leave or be expelled.
The former director of the human rights group, Liberty, who authored a report on dealing with antisemitism and racism in the Labour party, told the BBC’s Sunday Politics she found it “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”.
Mann concludes his interview on Sky News by saying that anyone who supports Ken Livingstone should now leave Labour, or be thrown out of the party.
Mann says you can “see the damage Livingstone has caused” in the local election results in London, saying many Jewish people could not bring themselves to vote for Labour.
Ken Livingstone is directly responsible for that. Directly.
The Labour MP John Mann, a longstanding fierce critic of Livingstone, says the former London mayor “lied” and tried to “rewrite history” with his comments on Hitler’s stance towards Germany’s Jewish community, saying it was his “fantasy”.
At the end of his 5 Live interview, Livingstone is asked if he thinks those Jewish organisations that criticised him should “forgive and forget and move on” now he has resigned.
No, I think they should check what I actually said. I had so many Jewish people turn up at my hearing a year ago providing support and saying what I’d said was true. And there are Jewish organisations that support me.
And I worked very closely with the Jewish community when I was leader of the GLC (Greater London Council) and when I was mayor. In my eight years as mayor, antisemitic incidents in London were cut by 50% and, in Boris Johnson’s eight years, they more than doubled – no one ever wants to ask about that.
Asked whether his legacy will be tarnished by the antisemitism row, Livingstone says:
There will be a million times every day when a pensioner gets on the Tube or the bus and they don’t have to pay – they’ll remember that.
Addressing those in the party who wanted him out, Livingstone adds: “I just wish they’d gone and checked what I’d actually said and, sadly, that sort of detailed work doesn’t seem to happen as much as it should.”
I didn’t say he’d supported a Jewish homeland … All he did, his government signed a deal with the German Zionists to move German Jews to Palestine. They wanted to create a Jewish state in Palestine, he wanted Jews out of Germany. I’m sure they loathed each other, but they had that one working relationship. And 60,000 German Jews were moved to Palestine. The prime minister of Israel said virtually the same thing six months before I did – no one’s suggesting Netanyahu’s antisemitic.
Livingstone tells BBC Radio 5 Live that one of his reasons for leaving was that he was barred from campaigning for the Labour party while he was suspended from it.
Having left, he says, he is now free to resume campaigning for Jeremy Corbyn’s ascension to Downing Street, as well as for causes such as action on climate change.
Asked if he would be a “help or a hindrance”, Livingstone says he suspects he will be more busy in the near future than he has been recently.
Livingstone rejects the claims he should have been expelled over his comments and says that, were he still seeking elected office, he “would have to fight this all the way down to the bitter end”. In the event, he asked himself if it was “really worth all this distraction”.
Asked if he believes his stance was damaging the party, he says:
What was damaging the party was those people that looked in the Financial Times or on the Huffington Post website or the Jewish Chronicle website and saw the claim that I’d said Hitler was a Zionist.
If I’d said Hitler was a Zionist, I’d have been off to my doctor to check it wasn’t the sign I was at the first stage of dementia. How can anyone say that a man who loathed and feared Jews all his life was a Zionist? But this has been global, all the way around the world.
Livingstone says Labour’s shadow attorney general, Shami Chakrabarti, accused him of “equating Jews and Nazis”; a claim he said was also made in the Sunday Times and which he denounced as one of many smears going back decades.
Referring to the antisemitism row that underlies his resignation, Ken Livingstone says he was “warned over the weekend that some of the old right-wingers on Labour’s NEC (National Executive Committee) were planning to raise it all again”.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, he says he was advised by his lawyers that the disciplinary proceedings could take another two years and says he felt that to go ahead with them would distract from Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign to get into Number 10.