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  1. ITV Report

Ken Livingstone quits the Labour Party ‘with great sadness’

Ken Livingstone has resigned from the Labour Party, saying the issues around his suspension for anti-Semitism had become a “distraction”.

In a statement, the former London mayor, who was suspended in 2016 for claiming Hitler supported Zionism in the 1930s, said he was leaving with “great sadness”.

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He said that he continued to reject the allegation that he had brought the party into disrepute and insisted he was in no way guilty of anti-Semitism.

“After much consideration, I have decided to resign from the Labour Party,” he said.

“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.”

However, when speaking to ITV News Correspondent Angus Walker, Mr Livingstone said he had threatened the party with legal action if they were to ever expel him.

"I said I just want you to know that if you do expel me, I'm going to court and you haven't a chance of winning, I simply stated historical fact and you've taken no action against those Labour MPs who claimed I said all sorts of other things," he said.

"You just don't know what's happening - our disciplinary procedure is more like something out of a dictatorship than a modern justice-based democracy."

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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.”

While Mr Livingstone rejected the charge of anti-Semitism, he acknowledged some of his comments had caused offence in the Jewish community, for which he was “truly sorry”

Speaking to ITV News, the former Mayor of London said he regrets ever making the comments.

"I clearly regret it because it's been two years of this diversion and in the four weeks leading up to the local elections this year all I saw on the TV about the Labour Party was anit-Semitism, anti-Semitism, anti-Semitism.

"We might have about one member out of every ten thousands that's tweeted something anti-Semitic but they'll be dealt with.

"People don't come into the Labour party because they're racist, it's not a good home for a racist."

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“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 anti-Semitism, I have fought it all my life and will continue to do so,” he said.

“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.”

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Mr Livingstone said he remained loyal to the Labour Party and would continue to work for the election of a government led by Mr Corbyn.

“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,” he said.

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