Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone told RT he’s not surprised by Monday’s Labour Party resignations, saying he’s “glad to see them go.” He was also quick to dismiss accusations of systemic racism within Labour.
Livingstone explained that the split goes right back to New Labour, saying “these are the people who date back to the time of Tony Blair when he took over the party and he blocked genuine Labour and socialist people from being parliamentary candidates.”
He said the Blair-led shift saw the parliamentary structure no longer reflecting Labour and its socialist values, instead favoring neoliberal ones.
“Now we’ve got a genuine Labour leader of course many of these people feel that they don’t agree with him, so they’ve gone and I’m glad to see them go.”
One of the breakaways, Chris Leslie, claimed that other MPs privately think it would irresponsible to allow Corbyn to be prime minister, but Livingstone says these people also support the “neoliberal values of Tony Blair” and “are terrified,” of a Corbyn government. Such a prospect which would improve “life for ordinary working class and middle class families and cracking down on all the tax dodging by bankers and giant cropropations and billionaires,” Livingstone said.
As for claims that Labour is now a racist party, Livingstone said these accusations are “complete lies” intended to undermine Corbyn and prevent him winning the next election. But his position within the party is “completely solid,” Livingstone believes, given that he has been elected twice as Labour leader by a landslide “because after years and of Labour governments that fail to deliver for ordinary people, I think people see in Jeremy Corbyn someone who puts their interests ahead of the banking sector.”
At the last election, Labour “had the biggest increases in the Labour vote for over 70 years,” and Livingstone believes that Corbyn’s critics were “shocked to discover that Jeremy connects with ordinary people.”
“Somebody who is racist or anti-semitic isn’t going to join the Labour Party because we’ve always championed the rights of minorities and migrants,” Livingstone added.
Livingstone also disagreed with the claim that Labour is on the wrong side of history on international issues: “The simple fact is that [there is] a ramping up of a new cold war, with Trump denouncing Iran Nicaragua and Venezuela and so on, and we don’t want to get caught up in America’s military escapades and all of that.”
On the question of the group’s timing in choosing their moment to break off from the party, Livingstone does not believe there is any significance to it, and thinks “they’ve been agonizing about it for at least a year now,” ever since they realised that the “neoliberals have lost their hold on the Labour Party and can’t get it back.”
In terms of party history, the Labour departure does not compare to the 1981 Labour split that started the Social Democrats party, Livingstone said. “They were giant figures, everyone in Britain knew who they were,” Livingstone said of the four senior party figures who left. “Whereas these people, hardly anyone’s heard of them.”
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