UPDATE: Labour has finally bowed to pressure and suspending Chris Williamson MP
Anger erupted after a video emerged of 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against Williamson but not suspending him – but fellow Labour MPs including Tom Watson continued to demand the whip is withdrawn.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. (Source: Jewish News)
Labour has failed to suspend MP Chris Williamson after calls from leading Labour figures. Instead, they will investigate Williamson, but allow him to continue as normal within the party.
A spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn said that Williamson had been issued with a “notice of investigation for a pattern of behaviour” by Labour and will not be suspended during the investigation.
BREAKING: Chris Williamson has been issued with a “notice of investigation for a pattern of behaviour” by Labour, spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn says. He will not be suspended during the investigation.
— Kevin Schofield (@PolhomeEditor) February 27, 2019
The news comes after Mr Williams made the comments at a Momentum event this week where he lamented the situation Labour is in, saying, Labour was being “demonised as a racist, bigoted party”. A title he refutes.
He then said, “I’ve gotta say, I think our party’s response has been partly responsible for that. Because in my opinion, I never have I’ve gotta say, we’ve backed off far too much. We’ve been too apologetic, we’ve given too much ground. We’ve been too apologetic.”
He then declared to applause and cheers, “What have we got to apologise for? For being an anti-racist party?” Williamson then says that Labour, in his view, has done more to tackle anti-Semitism than any other party.
WATCH: Chris Williamson tells a Sheffield Momentum meeting that Labour has been "too apologetic" about anti-Semitism… pic.twitter.com/zxtKdHQPvw
— Liz Bates (@wizbates) February 26, 2019
Labour MPs criticised their colleague over his comments after video footage of the incident was made public by the Yorkshire Post.
Ironically, Chris Williamson has now apologised.
Williamson said he had been wrong to suggest the party had “given too much ground” and been “too apologetic” in the face of criticism.
He said he “regretted his choice of words” and Labour “can never be too apologetic about racism in our ranks”.
Despite his apology, his position in Labour is under question, with some calling for his suspensions. Senior figures like deputy leader Tom Watson and Ed Miliband have called for him to be suspended. Prime Minister Theresa May also mentioned action against Williamson during today’s PMQs.
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. pic.twitter.com/IuEpDM1Ak2
— Tom Watson (@tom_watson) February 27, 2019
After the news aired even more comments Williamson made came to light.
Chris Williamson has been a strong ally of Mr Corbyn’s over many years. They were both found to be members of an anti-Semitic Facebook group in March last year. Unfortunately, Jeremy Corbyn has since deleted his account, likely hiding any other links he has to anti-Semites and anti-Semitic views.
Williamson makes more comments on anti-Semitism
The Jewish Chronicle has unearthed a recording of Chris Williamson making more comments about anti-Semitism and what he says is a smear campaign against Labour.
He also branded the accusations of anti-Semitism as “absurd” and called for “sanctions” against people who made anti-Semitism claims within the party.
The JC reports:
In the speech obtained by the JC, which was given to Labour activists last September, Mr Williamson said Labour had “turned into a 21st century version of the Stasi” with its response to the antisemitism crisis.
He added: “I think frankly our response has been really really really poor – we’ve tried to reason with people who are completely unreasonable.”
The MP also said: “I’ve been a member 42 years and I’ve never witnessed antisemitism – I’ve witnessed other forms of racism inside the Labour Party I regret to say.
“I’m not saying it’s never happened obviously. But let’s not inflate it and imply that it’s a major problem when it isn’t . It’s clear people have weaponised this.
“It’s not just me saying that, its people in the Jewish community who have said that.”
Mr Williamson said that those protesting against antisemitism in the party had repeatedly been given “concessions” as he referred to the departures of Ken Livingstone and Mr Wadsworth from Labour.
Insisting campaigners were using antisemitism as a means of removing the Labour leader, he said: “Ultimately what they want to do is topple Jeremy – they will not be satisfied until Jeremy has wither stepped down, died or been removed.”
He added: “It is like we are living in a George Orwell novel 1984. We’ve got the Ministry of Truth, we’ve got double-speak.. black is white, good is bad.”
Mr Williamson referred to the thousands of examples of antisemitism submitted to the Party and said “most of them are absurd.”
Then, discussing the expulsion of Mr Wadsworth from the Party over his conduct at the launch of the Chakrabarti report into antisemitism in Labour, Mr Williamson said Mr Wadsworth had been “shouted down” by “people shouting antisemitism at him.”
He added: “Bear in mind this is a room full of white people trying to shout down a black guy – what about the optics of that?”
Recalling the scene of the day of Mr Wadsworth’s hearing – where he was found guilty of having breached party rules after accusing Ms Smeeth of working “hand-in-hand” with right-wing newspapers – Mr Williamson said: “We had 40-50 white privileged parliamentarians marching down to try and influence a disciplinary hearing into a black guy.”
He added: “Look we are on the left… We are decent people, we care… It’s in our DNA to be anti-racist.
“This is a really pernicious and effective attack – you are attacking the very foundation of what we believe in by implying we are antisemitic or racist.”
This is another test for Labour to see if they will take seriously the situation they have with anti-Semitism. Just last week a number of MPs left the party stating part of their reason for this being the anti-Semitism within the party.