Chris Williamson: Labour MP filmed telling activists party is too 'apologetic' about antisemitism

Corbyn ally also tells Sheffield Momentum meeting he sang 'Celebration' after centrist MPs quit

Tim Wyatt
Tuesday 26 February 2019 23:17 GMT
Labour MP Chris Williamson filmed telling activists party is too 'apologetic' about antisemitism

One of Jeremy Corbyn’s closest allies has attacked his own party for being “too apologetic” over accusations of antisemitism.

Derby North MP Chris Williamson was filmed telling a meeting of pro-Corbyn activists Labour should have pushed back more during the long-running row over antisemitism within the party.

Speaking to a meeting in Sheffield of the Momentum group on Tuesday evening, Mr Williamson said it was wrong that his party, which had done more than any other to combat racism, had allowed itself to be portrayed as racist.

“We’ve done more to actually address the scourge of antisemitism than any other political party, and yet we are being traduced,” he said in footage obtained by the Yorkshire Post.

“The party that has done more to stand up to racism is now being demonised as a racist, bigoted party.”

He added: “I’ve 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’ve given too much ground, we’ve been too apologetic.”

His comments were met with cheers and applause, the video shows.

Luciana Berger, one of the MPs who quit Labour last week, tweeted in response: “This is what I have left behind. It’s toxic. Our country deserves so much better.”

Photos posted to the Momentum Sheffield Facebook page show Mr Williamson spoke at a meeting on 23 February. The images of him wearing a brown jacket and black jumper match the video released by the Post.

The Independent has contacted Labour and Mr Williamson for comment.

Mr Williamson’s speech directly contradicted the founder of Momentum, Jon Lansman, who said just one day earlier that “conspiracy theorists” had infiltrated Labour and the party had repeatedly failed to deal with the problem.

“I think it is now obvious that we have a much larger number of people with hardcore antisemitic opinions which, unfortunately, is polluting the atmosphere in a lot of constituency parties and in particular online. We have to deal with these people,” Mr Lansman, who is Jewish, said.

Several of the former Labour MPs who quit the party last week to join The Independent Group said it was growing antisemitism that had pushed them to leave.

But Mr Williamson said their defections were not a cause for reflection but celebration.

Speaking at the Momentum meeting in Sheffield, he said he had responded to the loss of eight colleagues by singing the Kool and the Gang hit “Celebration”.

He said he sang it so loudly he suspected it would have been easy to hear in Joan Ryan’s – one of the defectors – office, which is close to his in parliament.

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When Ms Ryan became the eighth Labour MP to quit, she said it was because Mr Corbyn has presided over “a culture of antisemitism and hatred of Israel” and she could no longer stay a part of “a party that allows racism to flourish”.

Mr Williamson was rebuked by his party on Tuesday for booking a room in parliament to show a film defending activist Jackie Walker, who was suspended over alleged antisemitic comments.

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