'The tories would have paid Hilary Benn to do this', says Ken Livingstone as he defends Jeremy Corbyn

'The tories would have paid Hilary Benn to do this', says Ken Livingstone as he defends Jeremy Corbyn

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is backed by former London mayor

Monday, June 27, 2016

Calls have been made by Labour MPs for Jeremy Corbyn to stand down as leader, and several shadow cabinet members have already resigned, but former London mayor Ken Livingstone doesn't believe they have enough status to make an impact.

Twelve of Corbyn's shadow cabinet stood down on Sunday, and today five more have left. The majority resigned citing dissatisfaction with his campaign in the EU referendum as part of the Remain side, and Labour MPs are threatening to bring a motion of no confidence against him, which could trigger an official leadership challenge.

However, former London Mayor Livingstone believes they planned their resignations in advance to cause maximum damage to Corbyn.

"The whole thing's been orchestrated, with one going every hour, so instead of one news story you spread it out over the day," he told Paul Ross.

"They were talking about blaming Jeremy if we vote to leave – it's this same group of disloyal MPs who've been stabbing him in the back since he won the [leadership] election. A lot of Labour party members will be saying, 'shouldn't you be laying into the Tories, not opening up this terrible rift?' The Tories would have paid people like Wes Streeting and Hilary Benn to do this."

"Part of the problem is that Jeremy tells the truth,” he added, “and no one can seriously go out there and say, well, being in the EU's been absolutely wonderful, there's been no problems. But he was saying 'it'll be worse if we leave, we should stay and we should reform it and make it better.' He was being honest.”

Livingstone also blamed Corbyn's apparently low profile during the campaign to some parts of the media ignoring the Labour Remain campaign.

“The television news coverage was only about 4% devoted to what Labour MPs were saying. The whole thing came down to Cameron and Johnson gnawing each other's testicles, and civil war in the Tory party.”

Corbyn has now announced new appointments in the shadow cabinet, and Livingstone doesn't think the MPs who have left will affect the party.

"The simple fact is Jeremy's got enough people inside the party to create a proper shadow cabinet. Most of these people who’ve stood down and resigned no one's ever heard of."

In the wake of the Leave vote, he also believes people weren't really voting against Europe, but as a more general protest vote.

"The simple fact is, people voted to leave the EU because for the last 35 years we've seen good jobs that working class people had being wiped out, and manufacturing has collapsed, Blair and Thatcher didn't build council houses – a lot of people are really angry. People were saying to me at the general election last year, 'what did the last Labour government do for me?'" he explained.

I think that's why there's been this big vote – people are blaming it on Europe and migrants, and the truth is we should blame it on really disappointing governments over the last 35 years.

"The tragedy is, when Blair got in he carried on Thatcher’s policies, the rich got richer, the poor got poorer. He betrayed us, and now these bitter anti-Corbyn MPs have got to come to terms with that."