Ken Livingstone would be suspended for racist jibes. Taunts over mental health should be treated the same way

Jeremy Corbyn's failure to deal with his old friend's unacceptable comments suggests his promises on mental health are empty rhetoric

Ken Livinstone, former Mayor of London
Ken Livinstone, former Mayor of London

Ken Livingstone's comments towards Kevan Jones MP - that because the pair disagree, he must need "psychiatric help" - have not just highlighted his attitude towards mental health, but a confusion in the way the Labour leadership treats such unacceptable behaviour. Like myself, Jones suffers from depression. Had he been a gay man and this a homophobic comment, Livingstone would have been suspended. Had it been misogynistic, he'd have been suspended too. Had it been racist... well, you get the point.

Yet Livingstone is still in a job, having been dragged into making an apology. At the time of writing he still holds a key role in the upper echelons of the Labour Party.

I am no stranger to the heated and cut-throat nature of politics. When I was a councillor, I spoke at national party conferences. Two years ago I was diagnosed as living with depression, suffering the typical debilitating symptoms of lowering personal hygiene levels and bouts of low confidence. Luckily, gone are the days when the recommended remedy to mental illness was to "pull yourself together", and legislation now rightly protects those who are suffering. Finally, political leaders are beginning to take mental health seriously. But today was the first time a politician said something that went beyond inciting my passions.

Livingstone's comment wasn't just something that made me angry, it actually made me feel hurt. My mental health is an impediment that is constantly with me. It gets in the way of my day-to-day life, and occasionally makes me lose control. But it seems for some, insults based on the suffering of those who share my condition are still fair game.

Livingstone excused his initial failure to apologise by pointing out that people in South London grew up to be rude to people who are rude to them, yet an experienced politician must know that it wasn't just his would-be target who would have been upset by his rudeness. He must know that in using such language, he had nonchalantly insulted every person suffering from a mental illness.

An apology is not good enough. I don't accept it, because it isn't sincere. Ken said sorry because he was told to do so.

An apology would not be good enough if a senior party member had used racist or homophobic language, so why should it be good enough for those who use stigmatising language on mental health? If Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is truly serious about tackling mental health issues, or promoting equality in general, his party should put Livingstone under the same disciplinary process that any other member would be subjected to in the same situation. If he doesn't, then not only does that emphasise how he has one rule for his friends and one rule for everybody else - but it will make it abundantly clear that his words on mental health and equality are nothing more than hollow rhetoric.

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