The leader of the Labour party has called for one one of his closest allies to apologise after he made an apparent slur against an MP with a history of mental health issues.
Ken Livingstone had told the Daily Mirror newspaper that shadow defence minister Kevan Jones should seek “some psychiatric help” after he criticised the former Mayor of London’s appointment a policy review post.
“I think he might need some psychiatric help. He's obviously very depressed and disturbed,” Mr Livingstone had said. “He should pop off and see his GP before he makes these offensive comments.”
Mr Jones has a history of depression and has previously spoken out about his illness in the House of Commons.
A spokesperson for Jeremy Corbyn, who has made mental health one of his signature issues, demanded that Mr Livingstone apologise.
“Jeremy is incredibly concerned that people with mental health problems shouldn't be stigmatised,” the spokesperson said.
“He has worked with Kevan in the past on this issue and is impressed by his bravery in speaking out on his own mental health issues. Ken should apologise to him straight away.”
Mr Corbyn was lauded by campaigners earlier this year after he appointed a shadow mental health minister. That minister, Luciana Berger, said Mr Livingstone’s comments were appalling.
“Mr Livingstone’s comments are simply unacceptable, and he should apologise without delay. An individual’s mental health should never be the excuse for insults, jibes, or political point-scoring,” she said.
“These comments should be treated as seriously as racism of sexism. Any reasonable person should be appalled, and I trust Mr Livingstone will retract his words straight away. We need to tackle stigma and prejudice in the area of mental health.”
Mr Livingstone however declined to apologise when he appeared on LBC radio shortly after the report surfaced.
“If he apologises for criticising my ability to do this job, that’s fine … He was rude about me, I was rude back to him. He needs to get over it,” he said.
He told Sky News: "I’d never heard of Kevan Jones. I had no idea he had psychiatric problems."
Mr Corbyn had appointed Mr Livingstone to a review of Labour's policy on Trident, which attracted criticism from Mr Jones.
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