Livingstone, who is co-chairing a review of Labour’s defence policy, made the comments on his LBC show during a discussion on British military intervention on Syria, in which he argued that bombing could not work without the presence of troops on the ground.
He said: “The bombing won’t defeat them … Maybe you’re right, I think you are right. We can’t put British troops on the ground, they’re too discredited after Iraq and Afghanistan, but we should look to countries like China. I think China would jump at the opportunity to be involved, because it would bring them on to the global stage. They’ve got millions of troops.
“The simple fact is, you’ve got to have troops on the ground to defeat this appalling terrorism, or it’s going to continue to be a problem for decades to come.”
David Cameron, speaking in Malta where he was attending a Commonwealth heads of government meeting, said: “I have the highest possible regard for the British armed forces. The person who frankly seems to be letting himself down is Ken Livingstone with the remarks that he makes.”
During the LBC programme, Livingstone clashed with the commentator Dan Hodges over Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of Labour. Livingstone suggested that the party’s national executive committee, of which he is a member, should have a role in deciding the parliamentary party’s position on airstrikes in Syria.
Hodges said the impending Commons vote on the issue required Corbyn to take a clear view. “This isn’t Sunday trading but this is a matter of war and peace,” he said.
Livingstone said the NEC could deal with the issue. “We are stuck with a parliamentary party that is clearly far to the right of the membership. That is not Jeremy’s fault.”
He said the simple reality was that Corbyn won 60% of the vote in September’s leadership election. “What I’m saying is the shadow cabinet and Labour MPs should get behind the leader that the rank and file overwhelmingly supported, not spend all their time undermining him.
“Every day on the telly and radio you have some backbench MP slagging off Jeremy Corbyn. For all my disagreements with Tony Blair on policy, I never attacked him as a person, I never questioned his competence, I spent months writing articles and campaigns to get him re-elected.”
On Thursday Livingstone drew criticism for suggesting that Tony Blair was to blame for the deaths of 52 people in the July 2005 London bombings. Appearing on BBC1’s Question Time, the former London mayor accused Blair of ignoring warnings from the security services about invading Iraq.
He said: “If I was there [in the shadow cabinet], I’d say bombing on its own isn’t enough. We shouldn’t get caught up again. I remember when Tony Blair was told by the security services: ‘If you go into Iraq, we will be a target for terrorism.’ And he ignored that advice and it killed 52 Londoners.”
Livingstone’s comments contrasted with a speech he gave in the immediate aftermath of the bombings, when he said the terrorists had no ideology and had decided to embark on indiscriminate mass murder.
This article was written by Nadia Khomami, for theguardian.com on Saturday 28th November 2015 15.16 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010