Livingstone won't say sorry for Hitler comment

The politician claimed that Hitler supported Zionism before he "went mad and ended up killing six million Jews"

Ken Livingstone

Ken Livingstone pursued by journalists as he leaves his home in London. PA

Former London mayor Ken Livingstone has said he "regrets" mentioning Adolf Hitler amid a row in Britain's Labour Party over alleged anti-Semitism, but he stopped short of saying sorry.

Appearing on a London based radio station, Mr Livingstone repeated his belief that what he said was true.

During another interview, he had claimed that Adolf Hitler had supported Zionism before he "went mad and ended up killing six million Jews".

Appearing with former Conservative MP David Mellor, and the journalist Michael Crick, Mr Livingstone said: "How can I regret stating the truth?"

He claimed he had simply made a "statement of fact" that had been repeated two days before by the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Pushed by Mr Mellor and Mr Crick to issue a general apology, he said he could not, because "sorry sounds like I'm apologising for what I said".

But he did have misgivings: "If I'd known what this eruption, what all this waste of time was going to be, I wouldn't have mentioned Hitler."

Mr Livingstone again denied allegations of anti-Semitism within Britain’s Labour party, saying: "There's a letter in the Guardian today by 80 Jewish members of the Labour Party, saying 'we've never experienced anti-Semitism'."

Instead, he blamed the Blairite wing of the party for a row which has been dominating the headlines.

"What this is all about is actually the struggle of the embittered old Blairite MPs to try and get rid of Jeremy Corbyn," he said.

"They've whipped this issue up."

Mr Livingstone, who has been suspended from Labour, said he was confident of being able to return to the party ranks following an investigation.

He said he had had "quite a lot of texts and tweets from Jewish people saying 'we would like to come along and support you at this inquiry'".

As he left the radio studios, Mr Livingstone told reporters "if people have been offended, I am really sorry about that" before repeating his allegation about Blairite MPs "stirring up" accusations.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has appointed the former director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, to head a panel which will draw up "a statement of principles and guidance about anti-Semitism and other forms of racism". 

A strengthened code of conduct will provide guidance on acceptable language, and "make explicitly clear for the first time that Labour will not tolerate any form of racism, including anti-Semitism, in the party".