‘Our job is to tell the truth, whatever the pain’ - Ken Livingstone attacks ‘apologist’ culture in politics at Beccles Public Hall event

Ken Livingstone.

Ken Livingstone. - Credit: Archant

'All my life I've been saying things people don't like,' former London Mayor Ken Livingstone admitted to an audience at Beccles Public Hall.

The talk and following question-and-answer session at the historic venue in Smallgate, Beccles on Sunday (June 5) certainly included a raft of controversial statements which some people might strongly disagree with.

Describing one former aide to Tony Blair as 'evil', claiming the Republicans in the US Congress 'seem to be a Christian Taliban' and saying the biggest rise during David Cameron's premiership is the number of cases of gonorrhea were just some (admittedly, he said that final one probably shouldn't be one of Labour's central pledges at the next election).

He also said quality of life was eroded under the Thatcher government - something many Conservatives might take issue with, even though many of their opponents might concur.

But whether or not you agree with those statements, saying things you truly believe when they are not necessarily popular is part of what Mr Livingstone believes today's politicians need to do more of.


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The event came with Mr Livingstone still in the middle of a furious argument about alleged anti-Semitism in Labour.

He was branded as a 'disgusting Nazi apologist' by MP John Mann and suspended from the party after making comments that Adolf Hitler 'was supporting Zionism' when he took power in Germany in 1932.

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Mr Livingstone - the former leader of the Greater London Council in the 1980s - believes that row has little to do with anti-Semitism, saying: 'It is embittered Blairite MPs and getting me off the NEC (Labour's ruling National Executive Committee) helps them.'

Despite widespread criticism for his remarks Mr Livingstone - who was also publicising his new book, Being Red - stood by his words, saying he made a 'simple statement of fact' and adding: 'The trouble is MPs don't read history any more.'

He went on to say he had 'never heard anyone say anything anti-Semitic in the Labour Party', asking: 'Would anyone anti-Semitic have joined a Labour Party led by Ed Miliband, whose father was Jewish?'

However amid calls that he should say sorry for his remarks, Mr Livingstone instead criticised what he called an 'apologist' culture in politics over the last 30 years.

'I've always said what I believe to be true,' he said in a talk that covered a range of topics including the current European Union referendum, the economy and Jeremy Corbyn's leadership of the Labour Party.

'Our job is to tell the truth, whatever the pain.

'We should always live in the truth - and we should always look for the politicians prepared to say it.'

Are you attending a show or performance in the Lowestoft and Southwold areas? Send your reviews to andrew.papworth@archant.co.uk

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