Jeremy Corbyn did not make any major mistakes in the catastrophic election campaign and simply fell victim to a ‘vile smear campaign’ over anti-Semitism, Ken Livingstone claimed today.
The former London mayor said Mr Corbyn, whose party was dramatically put to the sword by the Tories, was persecuted for being a ‘genuine Socialist’.
Mr Livingstone dismissed fury among the Jewish community at the wave of abuse within Labour’s ranks after Mr Corbyn became leader, insisting only ‘one 20th of one per cent’ of members had ‘tweeted or said something anti-Semitic’.
And he said he was ‘glad’ Jewish MP Luciana Berger quit the party and joined the Lib Dems after being hounded by racists, as she was not ‘really Labour’.
The extraordinary defence, in an interview on Sky news, came after Mr Corbyn was humiliated in the election on December 12, as Boris Johnson swept Labour’s northern strongholds to win a majority of 80.
Ken Livingstone said Jeremy Corbyn, whose party was dramatically put to the sword by the Tories, was persecuted for being a ‘genuine Socialist’
The extraordinary defence by Mr Livingstone, in an interview on Sky news, came after Mr Corbyn was humiliated in the election
Labour put in its worst performance since the 1930s – securing just 203 MPs, even worse than the showing under Mr Corbyn’s left-wing hero Michael Foot in 1983.
Mr Livingstone left Labour last year after a long-running row over his comments that Hitler ‘was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews’.
Speaking this morning, he said ‘one 20th of one per cent’ of Labour members had ‘tweeted or said something anti-Semitic’.
‘The media coverage suggested we were institutionally anti-Semitic. That was completely and utterly untrue.’
Mr Livingstone said he had only heard a member make a racist comment ‘once in 1950’ when someone had ‘complained about the song Young, Gifted and Black’.
He said: ‘The simple fact is Luciana Berger, I was glad she left the Labour Party, because I didn’t think that she was really Labour.
‘She was part of that wave of people who came in under Blair…
‘This was just whipped up. ‘
Asked if Mr Corbyn had made any significant mistakes, Mr Livingstone said: ‘No. The simple fact is if you are a genuine socialist you get all this abuse…
‘He ran the best campaign he could but he had a completely hostile environment.’
He said Mr Corbyn had done ‘brilliantly well’ in the election two years ago.
‘The big difference is over the last two years he has been subject to the most vile smear campaign. It is even worse than was done to me,’ he said.
Asked if Mr Corbyn (pictured in London yesterday) had made any significant mistakes, Mr Livingstone said: ‘No. The simple fact is if you are a genuine socialist you get all this abuse.’
Mr Livingstone also suggested that Mr Corbyn – who has repeatedly claimed he voted Remain in 2016 – really wanted to leave the EU.
‘Jeremy has always been deeply sceptical about being in the EU. If he had not been leader of the party he would have been campaigning to Leave,’ he said.
The intervention came as Mr Corbyn doubled down on his support for Labour’s wildly left-wing policies despite the party’s spectacular election defeat.
The outgoing opposition leader grudgingly shouldered some personal responsibility for the catastrophic collapse in votes, but used two newspaper columns to pin the blame on Brexit and the media.
Labour suffered its worst performance at the polls since 1935 after Boris Johnson reduced the party’s Red Wall of traditionally northern strongholds to rubble.
While accepting the result was ‘desperately disappointing’, Mr Corbyn said he was ‘proud’ of the radical anti-rich and spending spree platform he stood on during the campaign.
Insisting his tax-hiking government blueprint was popular, he wrote in the Observer: ‘I am proud that on austerity, on corporate power, on inequality and on the climate emergency we have won the arguments and rewritten the terms of political debate.
‘But I regret that we did not succeed in converting that into a parliamentary majority for change.’
During the campaign the Chief Rabbi made an explosive intervention, saying Mr Corbyn had allowed the ‘poison’ of anti-Semitism to infect Labour.
And in an excruciating TV interview, the Labour leader repeatedly refused to apologise to the Jewish community for his party’s failings.