Ken Livingstone has warned he will take Labour to court if it expels him over alleged anti-Semitism.
The former Mayor of London told HuffPost UK that leading barrister Michael Mansfield QC and solicitor Imran Khan were preparing a judicial review, which could end up costing the party tens of thousands of pounds.
Livingstone’s case is due to be heard next week by Labour’s National Constitutional Committee (NCC), a quasi-judicial body that rules on the most serious disciplinary cases.
The 11-strong NCC will convene a special panel of three members to finally decide the case - nearly a year after Livingstone was suspended for alleged anti-Semitism.
He had told BBC Radio London last April that in Adolf Hitler’s policy in 1932 “was that Jews should be moved to Israel”. “He was supporting Zionism – this before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews,” he told the Vanessa Feltz show.
He added at the time there was a “very well-orchestrated campaign by the Israel lobby” to smear anyone who criticised Israeli policy, adding that someone was anti-Semitic only if they hated all Jewish people, “not just the ones in Israel”.
A furore ensued, with Labour MP John Mann confronting Livingstone at one point outside TV studios to call him “a Nazi apologist”.
The former Mayor was suspended from the party and subsequently lost his seat on the party’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC).
The NEC ruled that his case was so serious that his expulsion should be referred to the NCC, a body first set up by former leader Neil Kinnock after his battles with the far-left Militant faction.
But Livingstone told HuffPost UK that the disciplinary body was part of a process that ran contrary to English law.
“Michael Mansfield says there’s just no case against me, and can’t justify it. But they’ve rigged the panel against me so there’s two right-wingers and only one leftwinger,” he said.
“And the way the proceedings are, no press or public admitted, is a complete contempt for our traditions of justice and law and order. So when we go to judicial review the court will just tear it apart.
“We’ve started by asking that the press and public should be submitted. You’ve had 11 months where these smears that I’ve said Hitler was a Zionist have gone completely unchallenged. It’s outrageous.”
Mansfield is a veteran barrister whose high-profile cases have included representing the Hillsborough families, as well as relatives of Stephen Lawrence. Khan’s firm also acted for the Lawrence family.
Asked about last year’s controversy, Livingstone told HuffPost UK he stood by his original remarks, and went further, stating that the Yad Vashem holocaust memorial centre in Israel had official papers to back him up.
“It would only have taken the Labour party about half an hour to go on the internet to Yad Vashem holocaust memorial and one of the documents, pamphlets they’ve got there is about the deal that Hitler did with Zionists in the 1930s.
“I don’t think I would say Yad Vashem is anti-Semitic.”
Asked if he judged the party would go ahead and expel him, he replied: “If they expel me they’ve got to have reason for doing it. I didn’t bring the party into disrepute, it was Labour MPs screaming I was a Nazi apologist. That just can’t stand up in court.
“It would be expensive if you lost it. But unless the judge was to go mad, they are bound to strike it down and the Labour party will pay the costs. It’s unbelievable the way the machine has operated.”
“When I was on the NEC under Kinnock we had an expulsion a year. When Blair got in … there were thousands. The staff shouldn’t be wasting their time on this, they should be getting the next election preparations ready.”
One insider said that the former Mayor had “lawyered up” for the hearing. Evidence will be presented for and against him in the panel meeting.
Livingstone said that if he lost he wanted to take Labour to court to make a wider point about the way the party dealt with disciplinary cases.
“It’s much worse because most of the other cases don’t get a hearing. The vast majority are just expelled by a couple of bureaucrats sitting in an office.
“It’s like something out of North Korea. This is why they would be bound to lose because it isn’t just a debate about what I’ve said, it’s actually about the procedures that they use. It’s just contrary to British law.
“I think what would be really good is if the courts ordered the Labour party to change its procedures for these things.
“I was asked a question on a BBC radio programme, I answered it in under 30 words, all the rest of it was just whipped up those Labour MPs. It wasn’t to do with anti-Semitism, they just wanted to get rid of me because I was defending Jeremy.
“And by suspending me I couldn’t stand for the NEC and they saw that would open the way for the right-wing to make some gains. But they were wrong, we won all six [constituency Labour party] seats.”
Livingstone told HuffPost that he thought Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell would be the next Labour leader after Corbyn.
“I haven’t been in the House of Commons since 2001, so I’ve no idea what the intakes in 2010 and 2015 are like. But I think it should be John McDonnell in the short term. In the long term, I’ve no way of knowing.”
Asked if McDonnell, his former colleague on the Greater London Council in the 1980s, would make a good leader, Livingstone replied: “He’s having to put up with what I did when I was leader of the GLC, unremitting bias from the media, ignoring all the serious stuff.
“You never see the media doing a big piece about his economic strategy, on investment or clamping down on tax dodgers. It’s all the trivia.”
He also backed McDonnell’s plan to reduce the percentage of MPs required to back a leadership bid, from 15% to 5% of the Parliamentary party and MEPs. A reversion to a system of just needing a proposer and seconder would also work, he said.
“Five per cent would be fine, but I think it’s just ridiculous because it involves going round asking people for support, it’s embarrassing actually.”
A Labour party spokesperson refused to comment on the NCC case against Livingstone, citing legal reasons.
This week, Livingstone told BBC Radio 5 Live that the party should be suspending Labour MPs Chuka Umunna and Wes Streeting for “screaming” anti-Semitic charges, and then blaming Corbyn for the Brexit vote.
“I think the other thing that Jeremy should do is re-introduce automatic re-selection. It’s really ridiculous that MPs in safe seats have a job for life,” he said.
Former Liberty chief Shami Chakrabarti was brought in by Jeremy Corbyn to oversee an investigation into alleged anti-Semitism within Labour last summer.
Her inquiry ruled that the party “is not overrun by anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, or other forms of racism”.
A separate probe by Baroness Royall into claims of anti-Semitism in Oxford University Labour Club found some students had used the abusive term “Zio” to describe Jewish colleagues. But the NEC decided earlier this year that no action would be taken against two OULC members.