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Ken Livingstone blames Blairites for ‘nonsense’ anti-Semitism storm engulfing Labour

39Ken Livingstone today admitted he “regrets” sparking an anti-Semtisim storm in Labour by mentioning Hitler – but blamed the row on Blairites seeking to undermine Jeremy Corbyn.

In an extraordinary radio interview this morning, the former Mayor again defended claims he made earlier this week that Hitler was a Zionist.

Mr Livingstone said he would “take a bullet” for Labour leader Mr Corbyn despite his suspension from the party in the wake of his comments.

Asked on LBC radio if he was sorry, he said: “I’m sorry for mentioning Hitler” but said he had made a “statement of fact”, adding: “I’m never not going to say what I believe to be true”.

A defiant Mr Livingstone went on: “It’s caused offence because people have distorted it and said this is anti-Semitic to have said it. They’ve lied in doing that. It wasn’t me that started this.”

“What this is all about is the struggle of the embittered old Blairite MPs to try and get rid of Jeremy Corbyn. They’ve whipped this issue up.”

Although he acknowledged that he regretted mentioning Hitler, Mr Livingstone refused to say sorry “because sorry sounds like I’m apologising for what I said”.

He added: “If anyone’s been upset by this of course I’m sorry about all of that. But the real thing here is dishonest MPs who know what I said is true, have stirred up all this nonsense so they can damage our chances at the local elections so they then had a chance of undermining Jeremy.”

Mr Livingstone sparked outcry on Thursday when he said Hitler was “supporting Zionism” before he “went mad and ended up killing six million Jews”.

He later stood by his comments after being furiously confronted by Labour MPs and suspended from his party in the row, saying: “Everything I said was true”.

His comments come after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn announced he would hold an independent inquiry into anti-Semitism and other forms of racism in his party.

It will be led by Shami Chakrabarti, the former chief of human rights pressure group Liberty, and will include consultations with Jewish and other minority groups.

The row led to an onslaught of embarrassing headlines for Labour and plunged the party into open civil war.

Mr Livingstone’s defence is expected to rest on the writings of a controversial American Marxist historian Lenni Brenner, who claims there was collusion between the Nazis and early campaigners for a Jewish homeland.