Ken Livingstone Quits U.K. Labour Party After Years of Accusations of anti-Semitism

Former London mayor had been suspended from the left-wing party in 2016 after saying Hitler had supported Zionism in the 1930s

In this file photo taken on June 15, 2017, former mayor of London Ken Livingstone visits Grenfell Tower in west London. Livingstone announced on May 21, 2018, that he is resigning from the Labour Party.
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP

Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone has resigned from Britain's Labour Party, which had suspended him over allegations of anti-Semitism in 2016.

Livingstone, 72, said Monday he was quitting because the issue had become a "distraction."

Livingstone was once one of Britain's most powerful Labour politicians, serving two terms as mayor of the capital city between 2000 and 2008.

But he was suspended by the party for a year in 2016 after saying in a BBC interview that Hitler had supported Zionism in the 1930s.

Speaking on a BBC London radio show, Livingstone had said, “Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism.”

In January, he appeared on Iranian state television to discuss the topic “Has the Holocaust been exploited to oppress others?” In it, he repeated his claim that Hitler worked with the Zionist movement to convince Jews to move to Israel.

Allegations of Labour anti-Semitism have grown since Jeremy Corbyn was elected party leader in 2015. Some in the party say Corbyn, a longtime critic of Israeli actions against the Palestinians, has allowed abuse to go unchecked.

Corbyn said in response that Livingstone's resignation was sad, but "the right thing to do."