South Tyneside Labour Party supremo calls on Jeremy Corbyn to sack Ken Livingstone over ‘extraordinary’ attack on North East MP

Kevan Jones.
Kevan Jones.

A South Tyneside Labour Party chief is demanding former London Mayor Ken Livingstone be sacked - after branding him an ‘utter disgrace’ over a mental health jibe aimed at a North East MP who has battled depression.

Alan Donnelly, who is chairman of South Tyneside Labour Party and a former Leader of the Labour Party in the European Parliament, has called on party leader Jeremy Corbyn to axe the veteran politician from his role leading a review on the party’s defence strategy after he said North Durham MP Kevan Jones should seek ‘psychiatric help’ during a heated row over the country’s nuclear policy.

Ken Livingston

Ken Livingston

Mr Livingstone is to consider the contentious issue of whether Labour should renew the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons system - but he blasted back after Mr Jones criticised his appointment.

Mr Livingstone said: “I think he might need some psychiatric help. He’s obviously very depressed and disturbed.”

He has since apologised for the remarks, insisting he was unaware the MP had previously suffered from depression.

But in a sternly-worded letter to Mr Corbyn - which he has vowed will be hand-delivered to parliament - Mr Donnelly said: “Ken Livingstone, who you have appointed as the co-convenor of the Labour Party’s review on defence policy, has made an extraordinary personal attack on one of our region’s most respected Members of Parliament, Kevan Jones the Member of Parliament for North Durham, former full time official with the GMB and a hard working Member of Parliament who took the courageous step to discuss publically his experience with mental illness in his earlier life.

Alan Donnelly (centre) with former South Shields MP David Miliband and former Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls

Alan Donnelly (centre) with former South Shields MP David Miliband and former Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls

“His courage in doing so has, I know, been an inspiration to many people who have endured in isolation debilitating mental illness.

“Although Ken Livingstone apparently has now apologised for these disgraceful comments they are indicative of how he instinctively and privately feels about these matters.

“Both in my capacity as the Chair of South Shields Labour Party and as a person who believes that Labour must give support to people with mental illness, Ken Livingstone’s comments about Kevan Jones are an utter disgrace.

You should immediately dismiss Ken Livingstone from the position you have appointed him to.”

Mr Donnelly says a failure to take action could ‘alienate’ voters.

He added; “Failure to do so simply demonstrates that your new politics is in fact the old politics of the campaign group and the far left which is characterised by bullying and abuse and I can tell you that outside of London this is deeply unattractive and will simply alienate not only swing voters but traditional voters and supporters who believe that Labour is the Party of social inclusion, the Party that is progressive in relation to addressing all health issues including mental health and a Party that celebrates those who have the courage to be honest about the challenges that they have faced during their life time.

“If you do not dismiss Ken Livingstone from this position and if you do not distance yourself from his repugnant comment then I believe for many of us you send a signal that under your leadership there is in fact no new politics that it is in fact simply the unacceptable politics of bullying which was so prevalent during the 1980s.”