By Dan Stewart
Londoners go to the polls Thursday to elect a new mayor, in a bitterly fought election that has laid bare tensions and divisions within British party politics.
Polls show Labour’s Sadiq Khan, a former government minister,poised to defeat Conservative Party candidate Zac Goldsmith, the environmentalist scion of a billionaire businessman, after a campaign marred by accusations of smears related to Khan’s Muslim faith and now, a worsening feud in the Labour Party over anti-Semitism.
Ken Livingstone, Labour’s last mayor of the capital, was suspended from the party last Thursday after defending a Member of Parliament(MP) who shared an anti-Semitic meme on her Facebook page. In lending support to Naz Shah, Livingstone claimed that Hitler had been a Zionist before he “went mad,” and then repeatedly refused to retract or apologize for his remarks.
Others in the Labour Party were apoplectic at the onetime mayor’s comments, coming just days before a mayoral election the party is in good position to win, and also crucial local elections. Footage showing red-faced Labour MP John Mann calling Livingstone a “disgusting Nazi apologist” outside party headquarters went viral on Friday.
Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn — like Livingstone, a product of Labour’s far Left — was accused of failing to take a strong enough stand against anti-Semitism, which for some in the fringes of the liberal movement is acceptable in the context of Israel’s policies towards Palestinians.
Among his critics was Khan, who moved to distance himself from Corbyn and his party over the weekend. “I am an advocate of the Labour leadership … actually receiving some training on this stuff as clearly they don’t understand what racism is, and there is no hierarchy when it comes to racism,” he told The Observer. “There are too many examples in our party of people having these views, and action does not appear to have been taken quickly enough.”