Labour MP Chris Williamson readmitted after four-month suspension over antisemitic row

Decision condemned as ‘unbelievable’ and ‘turning a blind eye to Jew-hate’ by fellow Labour MP Margaret Hodge

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Thursday 27 June 2019 08:54 BST
Chris Williamson says he will be working to clear his name

Left-wing Labour MP Chris Williamson has been readmitted to the party after a four-month suspension for saying it was “too apologetic” about antisemitism.

A panel ruled the Jeremy Corbyn ally had breached Labour rules and issued him with a formal warning, which “concluded” the investigation – ending the suspension.

A Labour source said: “He could face further, more severe, action if he repeats any similar comments or behaviour.”

But the decision was condemned as “unbelievable” and “turning a blind eye to Jew-hate” by Margaret Hodge, a Labour MP and campaigner against antisemitism in the party.

“This shows that the complaints process is a complete sham,” Dame Margaret protested. “This is not zero tolerance. This is letting your political pals back in and turning a blind eye to Jew-hate. Every decent Labour Party member must challenge this.”

Mr Williamson prompted outrage with his comments in February when he told a meeting of the left-wing Momentum group that Labour had “given too much ground” on antisemitism and been “too apologetic”.

To applause, he was recorded saying: “The party that has done more to stand up to racism is now being demonised as a racist, bigoted party.

“I have got to say, I think our party’s response has been partly responsible for that because in my opinion… we’ve backed off far too much, we have given too much ground, we’ve been too apologetic.

“We’ve done more to actually address the scourge of antisemitism than any other political party. Any other political party. And yet we are being traduced.”

He was already under fire for booking a room in parliament for the screening of a film about an activist suspended for alleged antisemitism, something a Labour spokesperson described as “completely inappropriate”.

The Independent revealed that Mr Corbyn’s office directly intervened to prevent the suspension initially, despite Nick Brown, the party’s chief whip, being ready to act.

A three-person national executive committee (NEC) panel on antisemitism decided, on Wednesday, to lift the suspension.

Labour has insisted new processes established by Jennie Formby, the general secretary, mean that all cases of alleged antisemitism are “dealt with more quickly”.

Unlike a hearing by the national constitutional committee, the disciplinary body within the party, the NEC does not have the power to expel any member.

The Politics Home website reported that the NEC rejected a recommendation from Labour staff that Mr Williamson be referred up to the national constitutional committee.

A source insisted the NEC panel was “not majority pro-Corbyn”.

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