POLITICS

Jeremy Corbyn Should Quit Over Livingstone Verdict, Says Former Senior Labour Official Mike Creighton

Long-serving ex-Head of Risk Management speaks out

05/04/2017 10:41 | Updated 05 April 2017
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One of Labour’s most senior former officials has urged Jeremy Corbyn to step aside in the wake of the decision not to expel Ken Livingstone.

Mike Creighton, Labour’s Director of Audit and Risk Management until last month, said that it was “incomprehensible” that the former Mayor of London had been given “a slap on the wrist” despite being found guilty of bringing the party into disrepute.

Creighton, who effectively ran the party’s legal, governance and disciplinary compliance team, said that it was time for Corbyn to consider “retirement” following the decision to suspend Livingstone for another year for his remarks about Hitler and Zionism.

The former staffer, who has never before urged Corbyn to step aside, also claimed that he had advised the Labour leader to make a strong speech condemning anti-semitism last year at the height of the row, but was ignored.

Creighton’s remarks came amid strong condemnation by deputy leader Tom Watson and other Shadow Cabinet ministers of the ruling on Tuesday night by the party’s disciplinary panel, the National Constitutional Committee (NCC).

With fresh calls for a re-think, HuffPost UK understands that both Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham will also criticise the decision.

Until a review of his conduct next April, Livingstone will not be able to run for elected office, but he will be allowed to continue to attend local meetings and vote in party elections.

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Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson

Deputy leader Watson said he felt “ashamed” by the NCC decision, declaring “my party is not living up to its commitment to have a zero tolerance approach to anti-semitism”.

MPs including Shadow Cabinet ministers Keir Starmer and Barry Gardiner, Yvette Cooper, Lisa Nandy and Wes Streeting all united to criticise the failure to expel the former Mayor.

Creighton, a former senior official overseeing Labour’s legal duties, pointed out that the quasi-judicial nature of the NCC’s work meant that it was not required to publish its reasons for its decision.

But he blamed the verdict on the “climate” under the current leadership and said “Corbyn has to go”.

“All right minded observers and commentators, Party members and no, who have read the charges and defence and who have followed the case as it wound its way to today’s conclusion will be aghast,” he said on his blog.

Mike Creighton
Former Labour head of risk management Mike Creighton

“All charges brought against the odious Livingstone were found proven. And yet, unaccountably, the punishment didn’t even fit the least of these charges…

“How is it that there is a climate within the Labour Party which allows ordinary, decent, elected members of a committee charged with upholding the moral compass of the Labour Party to think they should merely give Livingstone a slap on the wrist?”

Creighton added:

“When Seumas Milne came to me for advice on how to close down the erupting row about anti-Semitism in university Labour Clubs and amongst the left of the Labour Party, I said it was simple: Get Corbyn to make a speech condemning anti-Semitism of the left and right and stating unequivocally that anti-Semites would not be tolerated in the Party. My advice was not sought on the issue again.”

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The former official - who served under Kinnock, Smith, Blair, Brown, Miliband and Corbyn - also revealed that “it took five hours and three tortuous phone calls to persuade the Leader’s office that Livingstone should be suspended in the first place”.

He said that the failure to expel Livingstone meant that “anti-Semitism has air to breathe in the Labour Party”.

“And the Jew-haters and Jew-baters pretending that they are merely criticising the actions of the Israeli government have gained ground today. Not only is this an abject failure of justice in this case, but it gives carte blanche to the anti-Semites of the left and right – and mainly the Trotskyite left – to raise their evil standards on the parapets of the Labour Party. Apparently with Jeremy Corbyn’s calm indifference.

“The ordinary decent Party members have got to make themselves heard. And Corbyn has to go. Now. Not to be replaced by John McDonnell’s next puppet, but by a Leader who will not tolerate the racists of the left any more than we should tolerate racists of the right.”

“Jeremy, last time I saw you I told you I could really recommend retirement. Then I was talking about myself. Now I mean you.”

Since he retired last month, Creighton has also said that expelling “the Trots” is still a vital job for the party. “Militant, Socialist Appeal, Alliance for Workers Liberty have no more place in the Labour Party than the BNP or the EDL,” he said.

As it emerged that David Miliband was now “grieving” for the state of Labour, Creighton also blamed his brother Ed for changing membership rules for leadership elections.

Creighton’s account has been disputed by some in the party.

HuffPost UK has been told that the senior staffer was approached to check the procedural soundness of the party’s disciplinary practice rather than asked for political advice on how Corbyn should deal with the anti-semitism claims.

Allies of the leader said that the Chakrabarti inquiry, as well as swift suspensions in up to 20 cases, were proof that he took the issue seriously.

Corbyn himself spoke out against Livingstone soon after his remarks last year.

But Deputy leader Watson issued a withering statement on Wednesday, condemning the failure to take stronger action.

“I find it incomprehensible that our elected lay members on the disciplinary panel found Ken Livingstone guilty of such serious charges, and then concluded that he can remain a member of the Labour Party,” he said.

“When I read the words of Chief Rabbi Mirvis, who says that ‘the Labour Party has failed the Jewish community, it has failed its members and it has failed all those who believe in zero tolerance of anti-semitism’, I can’t disagree with him. I wish I could, but I can’t. I am ashamed that we have allowed Mr Livingstone to cause such distress.

“It isn’t just Jewish people who feel disgusted and offended by what Mr Livingstone said and by the way he has conducted himself over this matter, and it isn’t just Jewish Labour members who feel ashamed of any indulgence of his views anywhere in the Labour Party. This shames us all, and I’m deeply saddened by it.”

A raft of Labour MPs - including the Shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner - and Jewish groups lashed out at the verdict.

But Shadow Attorney General Baroness Chakrabarti, who conducted an investigation into the allegations of anti-semitism last year, said that the suspension showed Labour had the “ability to look at itself fairly and carefully in the mirror in more difficult times, however painful”.

Corbyn supporters will argue that the NCC is an independent disciplinary panel and under party rules its decisions cannot be influenced by the leader or the Shadow Cabinet.

And Livingstone was defended by several Jewish Labour party members, who had supported his case in the disciplinary hearing over recent days.

In a statement, Jenny Manson, Jonathan Rosenhead and others said: “The decision to suspend Ken is mistaken. It is an attempt to protect Israel from criticism, while simultaneously weakening the position of the pro-Palestinian Left in the party.

“It is the verdict, not Ken Livingstone, that has bought the Labour Party into disrepute.”

The leader’s office has been contacted for a reaction to Creighton’s claims.

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