Livingstone signals he will fight moves to expel him from Labour in court
Ken Livingstone has signalled that he will resist any moves to expel him from the Labour Party over his claim that Hitler supported Zionism in the 1930s.
The former London mayor, who has been suspended for the past two years, described the allegations against him as a "big smear" and indicated he would be prepared to go to court if there was any move to exclude him permanently for anti-Semitism.
"I am not going to my grave without this issue being resolved," he told Sky News.
Campaigners have demanded Mr Livingstone be removed from the party as a sign that party leader Jeremy Corbyn is serious about tackling anti-Semitism in Labour's ranks.
The issue has been blamed for the party's poor showing in the local elections in strongly Jewish areas such as Barnet in north London, where the Conservatives seized control of the council.
Mr Livingstone was originally suspended in 2016 following a radio interview in which he said: "Hitler was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews."
However, he argued that he had not actually said Hitler was a Zionist.
"There is a lot of Jewish people, not just in Barnet but all over the place, that believe I said Hitler was a Zionist. That was the big smear on the day I was suspended. Two years on it is still being repeated," he said.
He added: "When we had the hearing a year ago, I said 'If you expel me I will go to court. You haven't got a chance of winning.'
"How can you expel someone for stating a historical fact but take no action against MPs who lied about what you'd said, and claimed I'd said Hitler was a Zionist?
"I am optimistic. I believe that the truth should prevail."
His latest intervention drew an angry response from some Labour MPs.
Tulip Siddiq tweeted: "Please please get this irrelevant man off my TV screen."
Adam Langleben, a Labour councillor who lost his seat in Barnet, tweeted: "Why the hell is Ken Livingstone on @SkyNews trying to explain the Barnet result???? Chuck him out."
Mr Livingstone's original comments referred to an agreement in the 1930s between the Nazis and some German Zionists to re-settle German Jews in Palestine.
He told Sky: "Hitler wanted to get all of the Jews out of Germany and the Zionists wanted to create a Jewish state in Palestine so they collaborated. They didn't like each other but they collaborated to do that."
Mr Livingstone acknowledged that the whole controversy over anti-Semitism, which saw a protest outside the Houses of Parliament and complaints by Jewish MPs over the abuse they had received, had been "damaging" to Labour in the run-up to the local elections.
"It is a distraction. During this last month we have had endless stories about Labour and anti-Semitism - not getting across to people what we want to do in local government," he said.