Livingstone's capitalism remark wrong, say Jews

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Ken Livingstone came under attack from Britain's Jewish community yesterday after he suggested that global capitalism had caused more deaths than Hitler.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews described the remarks as "offensive" while Labour and Tory opponents said they proved Mr Livingstone was unfit to become mayor of London.

Mr Livingstone said economists had estimated that in any year since 1981, up to 20 million people had died because governments cut back on health schemesto pay debts. "Every year the international financial system kills more people than World War Two. But at least Hitler was mad, you know?"

The comparison provoked an angry reaction from the Board of Deputies of British Jews. "Ken Livingstone damns himself out of his own mouth. Personally I don't find his sense of humour particularly amusing, and it's actually quite offensive," a spokesman said.

Mr Livingstone upset Holocaust survivors last week when he claimed he was being treated like a "Nazi war criminal" over his finances.

He triggered further controversy when he branded the drugs tsar a "waste of money" and called for the decriminalisation of ecstasy and cannabis.

He told NME magazine that the international finance system was responsible for the deaths of millions of people in the Third World: "The IMF and the World Bank are still appalling and now the World Trade Organisation, too. All over the world people die unnecessarily because of the international financial system."

He said on the London radio station LBC that Keith Hellawell, the Government's anti-drugs co-ordinator, had failed. "I think the drugs tsar is a waste of money. And it's rubbish to say that all drugs are the same, and that ecstasy, and heroin and cocaine are all the same, because it means kids don't believe you," he said.