Labour MPs and others have rounded on Ken Livingstone for failing to swiftly apologise to shadow defence minister Kevan Jones after he said the Labour MP "might need some psychiatric help".
The former London mayor and Jeremy-Corbyn ally triggered an immediate backlash for using mental health issues as a form of attack. Jones, who had criticised the appointment of Livingstone to co-chair Labour's Trident review, suffered from depression.
Corbyn told Livingstone to apologise after he repeatedly refused to do so. But Livingstone told BBC Radio 4's World at One of Jones: "If he's upset, I'm sorry. But he can't blame me."
Livingstone added: "I grew up in south London. If someone was rude to you I was rude back to them. I didn't go to Eton and get all that smarmy charming education I'm afraid."
A defence that did not impress Jones.
@paulwaugh neither did I Portland Comprehensive School!— Kevan Jones MP (@KevanJonesMP) November 18, 2015
Or former shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves.
Livingstone tries to explain mental health slur by saying he grew up in South London on @BBCWorldatOne. So did I. It is no excuse.— Rachel Reeves (@RachelReevesMP) November 18, 2015
Shadow Europe minister dismissed Livington's apology to Jones as "not a proper apology". He told the BBC the comments about depression were a "very nasty thing to say".
Sky News presenter Kay Burley also mocked Livingstone for offering a "boyfriend apology".
Boyfriend apology... https://t.co/yapsY1BrFP— Kay Burley (@KayBurley) November 18, 2015
The controversy started when Livingstone was appointed to co-chair Labour’s defence review – which will take in Trident nuclear policy – along with shadow defence secretary Maria Eagle.
A stunned Jones had told the Politics Home website “I’m not sure Ken knows anything about defence” and said his new role would “only damage our credibility amongst those that do and who care about defence”.
Livingstone retaliated by telling the Daily Mirror: "He’s obviously very depressed and disturbed… he should pop off and see his GP before he makes these offensive comments."
The former mayor offered an apology to Jones on Twitter following the backlash.
1/2 I unreservedly apologise to Kevan Jones for my comments. They should not have been made at all, let alone in this context.— Ken Livingstone (@ken4london) November 18, 2015
2/2 I also make this apology because Jeremy is right to insist on a more civil politics and as a party we should take this seriously— Ken Livingstone (@ken4london) November 18, 2015