Public confrontations, infighting, analogies of Hitler, anti-Semitism, suspensions and senior political figures locked in toilets – all one week before many parts of the country go to the polls. No, this is not a scene from a political sketch show but the latest offering from an increasingly chaotic Labour Party.
The episode started earlier in the week with the suspension of Naz Shah, MP for Bradford West from the 2015 intake, following anti-Semitic comments she had made on social media prior to her election. Not content, however, with how the issue had been dealt with and not one to shy away from notoriety, Labour dinosaur and former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, weighed into the debate.
Condemning the Party’s decision to suspend Shah, he responded with further anti-Semitic comments of his own, shockingly declaring Hitler a Zionist. Naturally there was uproar, but none more so then from Labour MP and Chair of the All Party Group against Anti- Semitism, John Mann, who publicly confronted Livingston, angrily labelling him a ‘Nazi Apologist.’
The entire incident was nothing short of shambolic with the Labour Leadership coming under fire and surprisingly serious consequences for Ken Livingstone, whose political career has previously survived other verbal blunders. But it didn’t end there, as the former Mayor was hounded by the country’s media, eventually seeking refuge in a disabled toilet to cries of ‘Mr Livingstone do you agree with Hitler,’ from the other side of the door.
It goes without saying that the allegations of anti-Semitism are serious ones and Corbyn’s leadership is becoming famed for its inability to deal with such issues swiftly and openly. But it is the lack of political nous from senior figures in the party that is really astonishing. Livingstone’s actions are simply unpalatable, and a week before an election run a serious risk of alienating communities and harming Sadiq Khan’s bid for London Mayor, where he is currently ahead in the polls.
It appears as though Sadiq has managed to distance himself from this amateurish behaviour, maintaining his composure throughout. But the result on Thursday will be the real test of whether it is only Ken Livingstone’s political career that has been damaged by this debacle.