The row over Ken Livingstone’s remarks that shadow defence minister Kevan Jones “might need psychiatric help” was reignited on Saturday when the former London mayor was labelled a bigot by Labour MP John Mann.
In a live phone-in on LBC radio, Mann called Livingstone “an appalling bigot” and “all mouth” and criticised him for refusing to campaign for Labour in the Oldham byelection in 12 days’ time.
“I think it would be far better if you stopped your excruciating apologies for your bigoted views,” said Mann. “To be honest, so shocking, so appalling they’re unfit in any political party.”
Livingstone, an ally of Jeremy Corbyn, struck back by accusing Mann and other MPs on the right of the party of undermining Labour’s leadership more “than I have ever seen in the past”.
When the veteran Labour politician then refused Mann’s invitation to campaign in Oldham, the MP accused him of being “all mouth”.
The former mayor responded: “You’re on the radio and TV all the time, criticising what this party leadership is doing. All the time.”
Mann then demanded that Livingstone give him an example and later accused him of “twisting things and failing to apologise for … your bigoted remarks about Kevan Jones. You’re the one who’s creating dissent.”
The former mayor then appeared to again backtrack on his apology to Jones, saying the MP should have spoke to him before criticising his appointment as co-chair of Labour’s review of Trident.
On Wednesday Livingstone tweeted that he “unreservedly apologised” to Jones for telling the Mirror: “I think he might need some psychiatric help. He’s obviously very depressed and disturbed … He should pop off and see his GP before he makes these offensive comments.” Jones, MP for North Durham, experienced depression in 1996.
But appearing on Channel 4 News later on Wednesday, he then watered down his apology by saying: “If I’ve upset anyone, I’m really sorry. But this row isn’t something I started. It’s because I was attacked as not fit for this job.”
Livingston told Mann on Saturday: “I didn’t attack Kevan Jones. Kevan Jones attacked me and I responded. Why don’t you say something critical about an MP who comes out and attacks someone he’s never spoken to, smears them and says [they’re] not fit to do the job.”
Mann responded: “You are a bully attacking Kevan Jones. Your language is appalling. You’re a bigot. You’ve failed to apologise … Even today, you’re failing to do so.
The show’s co-host, former Conservative minister David Mellor, then intervened, saying: “Can listeners kindly be reminded that these are two members of the Labour party who’ve been discussing their love for one another.”
This article was written by David Batty, for theguardian.com on Saturday 21st November 2015 17.28 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010