MP Chris Williamson suspended by Labour

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MP Chris Williamson suspended by Labour

Chris Williamson has been suspended from the party, and therefore the whip, pending an investigation

Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Labour has finally bowed to pressure and suspended MP Chris Williamson.

Anger erupted after video emerged of the the Derby North politician telling activists Labour had been “too apologetic” over antisemitism, hours after Jewish  News revealed he had booked a room for a screening of suspended activist Jackie Walker’s film.

The party said this morning it was issuing a notice of investigation against Williamson but not suspending him – but  fellow Labour MPs including Tom Watson continued to demand the whip is withdrawn.

A Labour spokesman said: “Chris Williamson is suspended from the party, and therefore the whip, pending an investigation.” Sources indicated that once his pattern of behaviour was reviewed this afternoon the general secretary decided to suspend.

In a clip published by the Yorkshire Post, Williamson told a meeting hosted by Momentum the party had “given too much ground”.

He suggested Labour’s response to complaints of antisemitism had contributed to the party being “demonised”.

Williamson also said he had celebrated the resignation of former Labour MP Joan Ryan, who defected to join the Independent Group of MPs last week, by singing Kool & The Gang’s 1980s pop classic Celebration.

In a letter to Labour’s Chief Whip Nick Brown and General Secretary Jennie Formby, Watson accused Williamson of bringing the party into “disrepute” and called for his expulsion.

Watson also tweeted: “Chris Williamson has produced a long-winded and heavily caveated apology. It is not good enough. If it was in my gift I would have removed the whip from him already.”

Labour MP West Streeting echoed Watson’s words, tweeting: “I do not believe this is sincere. I believe you have deliberately baited Jewish people in our Party and across the country.”

Louise Ellman described Labour’s decision to issue Williamson a notice of investigation as “meaningless” and a “failure of leadership yet again” and called for his suspension from the party and PLP. “The pressure will be kept on. The overwhelming number of MPs feel very strongly and Tom Watson is a great encouragement.”

Following speculation at the weekend she was on the verge of quitting the party, she said: “I’ve not taken any decision. I’m fighting this within but am increasingly angry.”

Earlier this week, Williamson provoked fresh outrage after he booked a room in Parliament on behalf of Jewish Voice for Labour for a screening of suspended Jackie Walker’s new film.

The film was due to be shown in a committee room of the House of Commons next Monday, though questions remained about whether the screening would be cancelled by the time Jewish News went to press.

JLM last summer called for the whip to be withdrawn from Williamson for a pattern of behaviour that has included repeatedly sharing platforms with suspended and expelled activists and retweeting from accounts with hardcore antisemitism.

He was also one of the few high-profile figures to continue to publicly support Pete Willsman’s efforts to be re-elected on to the NEC after the latter’s Jewish Trump fanatics rant was revealed.

Ruth Smeeth, who first raised the issue of the room booking, told Jewish News: “It’s outrageous that a member of Parliament is giving a platform to an organisation that seems more intent on characterising the antisemitism crisis within the party as smears rather than being part of solution.

“Giving these people and Jackie walker a platform at the home of British democracy is a complete and utter disgrace. I’ll be complaining to the Leader of the Labour Party and the house authorities.”

Walker – who was suspended from Labour after saying that “many Jews were chief financiers of the slave trade” and then again over remarks during an antisemitism training event at party conference more than two years ago – is currently awaiting a disciplinary hearing.

The Board of Deputies tweeted: “In suspending Chris Williamson MP, @UKLabour has taken the right decision, if long overdue.

“Thanks to @tom_watson and all those Labour MPs who had to push the party leadership to take this matter seriously.”

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