Politicians unite to back decision to axe Ken Livingstone from Portsmouth Festivities line-up for comments about Hitler

Ken Livingstone
Ken Livingstone
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A SPEECH from former London mayor Ken Livingstone that was scheduled as part of Portsmouth Festivities has been cancelled over his controversial comments about Adolf Hitler.

A statement from the organisers said he would no longer be included in the line-up and that they would be issuing refunds.

James Priory, chairman of Portsmouth Festivities, said: ‘The Portsmouth Festivities is committed to providing a platform for speakers with different viewpoints and ideas. We welcome the opportunity to provoke thoughtful discussion and debate.

‘The level of concern expressed by members of the wider community within the national media regarding Mr Livingstone’s comments, however, has led us to reconsider the appropriateness of his inclusion in our programme for 2017.’

There is growing pressure from Jewish Labour members and supporters for the party to take further action over Mr Livingstone’s comments linking Nazi leader Adolf Hitler with Zionism.

Mr Livingstone was suspended by Labour for two years – one year of which he has already served – since making the original comments, which were condemned as anti-Semitic, in April 2016.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the ‘offensive remarks’ – which Mr Livingstone has continued to defend – will now be considered by the party’s ruling executive committee.

Mr Livingstone insists that he has been ‘suspended for stating the truth’ and said his comments had been misreported by the media.

Portsmouth Festivities sees concerts, exhibitions, talks, comedy, folk, family events, free outdoor events and much more take place across the city from June 16 to 25.

The cancellation has been welcomed by Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond.

She said: ‘Ken Livingstone is a controversial figure but his comment linking Hitler with Zionism has caused great offence, so perhaps it is best his appearance has been cancelled.’

Portsmouth’s Labour leader Stephen Morgan said: ‘This decision is of course one for the organisers of the Portsmouth Festivities to make. But as someone who has been involved in the programming of these community events in the past, I personally support the decision made.’

Portsmouth’s Tory council leader Donna Jones also backed the decision.

She said: ‘I fully support the decision of Portsmouth Festivities to amend their speakers programme.

‘Comments made by Mr Livingstone have caused offence not just to the Jewish community but many sections of society both in the UK and across the world.

‘High-profile figures such as Mr Livingstone should be setting an example about progressing acceptance and values in civil society. His comments did not do this.

‘I know people will be disappointed but I’m hopeful that Portsmouth Festivities will find an excellent speaker to add to their already very strong line-up. I’m looking forward to the many events that are being held this year.’

Go to portsmouthfestivities.co.uk/ for more details.