Many blamed conspiracies for the two-year controversy leading to his resignation, variously implicating MPs, media figures and the Israeli government in a supposed plot to attack Jeremy Corbyn.
Livingstone finally announced his resignation from the Labour Party on Monday evening, admitting that his continued membership had become a “distraction”. He was initially suspended from the Labour Party in April 2016 for telling BBC London that “when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.” He regularly repeated this view without apology in the two years that followed.
Now Labour activists are defending his widely-debunked claims across Facebook groups that are popular inside the movement.
In the 40,000-strong Labour Party Forum group, Mark Dempster insisted “he did nothing wrong”, while Joanna Archer praised Livingstone for “trying to give us all a refreshingly factful [sic] history lesson”. Kevin Hutchinson claimed “Hitler was a Zionist” adding that “this is all Ken Livingstone said … it isn’t false it isn’t fiction it’s fact”. In one particularly bizarre post, a member named Lyn Matthews launched a defence of Livingstone based on “hearing stories of the war throughout my childhood” that “there was [sic] many Jewish people who informed on their families”.
Bernard Campion, a member of the group Supporting Jeremy Corbyn & John McDonnell said “Ken Livingstone was right” in his claims about Hitler seeking to deport Jews, prompting Robin Vyrny-Pierce to reply “Ken Livingstone was absolutely correct”. Steve Hall implied that Livingstone was pressured to resign for “disagreeing with the evil Israeli regime”.
A prominent post in the same group by Lucy Graham shared a blogpost titled “Ken Livingstone – forced by racists and Zionists to resign from the Labour Party” written by Tony Greenstein, a former Labour member expelled for antisemitism. Jef Het instead claimed that “the Israeli lobby call the tune and Labour dance, Blair and Chuka laughing all the way to conference”.
Conspiracy theories were just as common in the Labour Party Forum, John Howley instead blamed Labour Friends of Israel, saying the group “dug the grave and almost succeeded in pushing Ken into it”. In a similar vein, Ben Bruges said Livingstone’s resignation would “just embolden the [Board of Deputies of British Jews] and LFI into further attacks” adding that “good anti-racist campaigners are being thrown to the wolves to satiate the enemies of our party”. Bruges even appeared to implicate Corbyn ally Emily Thornberry in his conspiracy, saying “we have Labour MPs, including the Foreign Sec, who are members of LFI [for fuck’s sake]!”. David Urwin implied a conspiracy, saying “I have no idea who was behind this smear campaign, but I can guess”.
One member of the Labour Party Forum, Wenonah Lyon, compared Israel with apartheid South Africa but added that “the only difference is that apartheid South Africa needed the labour and Israel doesn’t, therefore shove them out or kill them, Netenyahu doesn’t care which.”
Some comments devolved into outright abuse. Mike Razzell echoed the ancient blood libel against Jews to claim that “the [Board of Deputies of British Jews] scent blood”, while Nev Hawkins described the same Jewish community group as “a racist bunch of shits. Stiofan Carthaigh appeared to threaten Labour Friends of Israel in the We Support Jeremy Corbyn group, saying they would “live to regret this”.
Some of the posts hinted that Livingstone is likely to carry on being a problem for the Labour Party. Allan Hore told the Labour Party Forum that the fact Livingstone resigned instead of being expelled meant that “he can legitimately share a platform with our more democratic MPs”. Mary Stickley reacted to Labour MP Wes Streeting’s suggestion that defenders of Livingstone should also be expelled from the party by saying “fuck off incompetent, know nothing fool … Wes Streeting should realise he is one of the few and will soon be gone”.