Ken Livingstone denies Jewish voting comments

 

Ken Livingstone denied today saying Jews do not vote Labour as he sought to limit the damage from a race row sparked by his alleged comments.

Prominent members of London's Jewish community have sent a letter to Labour leader Ed Miliband expressing their concerns about his party's candidate for London mayor.

The letter reportedly claimed that during a meeting with Labour-supporting Jews on March 1, Mr Livingstone said he did not expect the Jewish community to vote Labour "as votes for the left are inversely proportional to wealth levels, and suggested that as the Jewish community is rich we simply wouldn't vote for him".

Asked on the campaign trail in east Croydon, south London, today whether he made the comments, he replied: "Absolutely not."

But he insisted he stood by everything he did say during the meeting, dismissing the row as "electioneering".

He said: "It was a private meeting, it went on twice as long as we thought because we were having a very interesting conversation and we had a very nice meal together, and I don't recall anyone complaining about anything I'd said there, so I think this is a bit of electioneering from people who aren't terribly keen to see a Labour mayor."

He added that he had always fought prejudice and defended his record on looking out for the Jewish community.

"Every year I was mayor, anti-Semitic attacks declined," he said.

"The moment I stopped being mayor, they went up pretty dramatically under Boris Johnson...

"The simple reality is I have always fought prejudice. These charges are used again and again."

Mr Miliband, who joined Mr Livingstone as he launched his "Ken's fare deal" campaign to cut public transport fares, lent him his backing.

"I know Ken Livingstone well," he said. "He doesn't have a prejudiced bone in his body.

"He is attracting people from all faiths, all backgrounds, all religions to his campaign.

"He's somebody who's fought prejudice all his life and I know that is what he's going to continue to do."

Mr Livingstone addressed cheering supporters in front of a red bus with the slogan "Better off with Ken" emblazoned on it.

He pledged to:

:: Save Londoners on average £1,000 over four years by slashing transport fares;

:: Save households on average £480 on lower energy bills;

:: Help young people stay in education with an Education Maintenance Allowance of up to £30 a week;

:: Help reduce rents and improve homes with a non-profit London lettings agency;

:: Tackle heating bills through insulation and an energy co-op to reduce prices;

:: Introduce grants and interest-free loans to provide support for childcare.

He said: "The plans I have set are not only affordable but are aimed at helping Londoners in tough times and create jobs and growth."

But opponents attempted to drown him out by chanting "Not again, Ken" as he spoke to Labour campaigners.

Undeterred, Mr Livingstone went on to speak of his wish to see more power devolved to the London mayor from central government, declaring he would "like to take over our NHS immediately".

He said: "If you look at the city of New York, the mayor runs the benefit system, some of the prisons even, and the healthcare and schools.

"I've watched all my life, irrespective of which government, Labour or Tory, ministers trying to run London's hospitals from Whitehall.

"It's just too big, too complicated. I think I'm in favour of devolving everything...

"The more you devolve things down, the easier they are."

Asked what areas he would like to be responsible for as mayor, he said: "I'd like to take over our NHS immediately because I would stop this nonsense that is going to lead to the privatisation.

"I'd like to take over a major house-building programme because we've got 700,000 households on the waiting list.

"I'd like to run the benefit system, and the first thing I'd do is increase the minimum wage in London to the level of the London living wage, which would put money back in the pockets of the poorest workers."

He joked that he would use his "amazing charm and subtlety" to persuade the Government to hand over these powers.

The campaign for London mayor officially got under way on Tuesday, with Londoners due to go to the polls on May 3.

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £550 - £650

£550 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Traded Credit Risk - Investmen...

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL, MSMQ, SQL, GIT, SQ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf