Ken Livingstone has apologised “unreservedly” after suggesting a shadow minister suffering from depression needed psychiatric help.
The former London mayor repeatedly refused to say sorry to Kevan Jones for calling him “disturbed” as bitter divisions erupted over Labour’s defence policy, and insisted he was not to blame for the ensuing row.
But Mr Livingstone later took to Twitter to say sorry amid a backlash from MPs and demands from ally Jeremy Corbyn that he must apologise.
He said: “I unreservedly apologise to Kevan Jones for my comments. They should not have been made at all, let alone in this context.
“I also make this apology because Jeremy is right to insist on a more civil politics and as a party we should take this seriously.”
The row was triggered when Mr Jones claimed putting the opponent of nuclear weapons in joint charge of the defence policy review with shadow defence secretary Maria Eagle would damage Labour’s credibility.
Mr Livingstone hit back at the criticism, telling the Mirror newspaper the MP should “pop off” to see his GP.
“I think he might need some psychiatric help. He’s obviously very depressed and disturbed,” he said. “He should pop off and see his GP before he makes these offensive comments.”
Mr Jones, who said the comments belonged in the “dark ages”, appeared to be unimpressed by the apology, tweeting “what about apologising to other thousands of people he insulted”.
Shadow minister for mental health Luciana Berger said: “An individual’s mental health should never be the excuse for insults, jibes or political point-scoring. These comments should be treated as seriously as racism or sexism.”