UK Politics

Labour anti-Semitism row: Chris Williamson allowed back into party

Chris Williamson Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Chris Williamson was suspended from the Labour Party in February

An MP has been allowed back into Labour after an investigation into comments he made about the party's handling of anti-Semitism allegations.

Chris Williamson, MP for Derby North, was suspended in February after saying Labour had been "too apologetic" in the face of criticism on the issue.

A Labour source said Mr Williamson was found to have breached party rules and was given a formal sanction.

They said he could face further action if he repeats any similar behaviour.

Mr Williamson said he was pleased to have been allowed back into the party and had been "inundated with overwhelming messages of support from all over the country".

He told BBC Radio Derby: "Anybody who knows me, who knows my record, knows I'm someone who has stood up against bigotry throughout my political life and indeed beforehand."

He added that some of the comments made about his re-admission had been "really quite offensive and incredibly hurtful".

A Labour spokesperson said the party took all complaints "extremely seriously", but they could not comment on individual cases.

Labour is being formally investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission over allegations of anti-Semitism.

The watchdog told the party in March it had received a number of complaints and was considering its next steps.

But it confirmed in May it would be launching a probe into whether Labour had "unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish".

'Disgrace'

A Labour source said the suspension was lifted following a hearing of the party's National Executive Committee (NEC) anti-Semitism panel, which was advised by an independent barrister.

But the national chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, Mike Katz, said the decision "stinks" and showed the "moral turpitude" the party was in.

The vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Amanda Bowman, said it was "an utter disgrace" to allow Mr Williamson back in, and was "more damning evidence" of anti-Semitism in the party.

Karen Pollock, the chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust was critical of the decision, asking people to "speak up" and "do something".

And Labour MP Margaret Hodge condemned the decision as "unbelievable", and said the party was "turning a blind eye to Jew-hate".

"This shows that the complaints process is a complete sham," she tweeted. "This is not zero tolerance. Every decent Labour Party member must challenge this."

'Red lines'

The row erupted after footage of Mr Williamson was published by the Yorkshire Post, showing him telling activists that Labour had "given too much ground" over allegations of anti-Semitism and was being "demonised as a racist, bigoted party".

The comments came just a week after nine Labour MPs quit the party, citing anti-Semitism as one of the main reasons for the move.

One of those MPs, Chris Leslie - who is now an MP for Change UK - tweeted his reaction to Mr Williamson's re-admission with the hashtag: "#EnoughIsEnough".

He added: "How many more red lines will be laid down by sensible Labour MPs, only for the leadership to trample right over them? Just what will it take?"

Independent MP Ian Austin, who also quit the party in the same week in protest at Mr Corbyn's leadership, said it was a "complete disgrace" to let Mr Williamson back in with just a warning after he had "caused huge offence to Jewish people".

He added: "This shows the extent to which a party which had such a proud record of fighting racism has been poisoned under Jeremy Corbyn.

"The only question is when decent Labour MPs will finally say enough is enough and do something about it."

Labour MP Stella Creasy tweeted that the decision was the "best example yet" of why Labour needed an independent process for anti-Semitism complaints.


Who is Chris Williamson?

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Chris Williamson said Labour had done more to address anti-Semitism than any other party
  • The 62-year old is one of the most outspoken MPs on the left of the party
  • A former bricklayer and social worker, he was a councillor before entering Parliament
  • Led Derby Council twice in the 2000s, where he formed a coalition with the Tories
  • Elected as MP for Derby North in 2010
  • Lost the seat in 2015 but won it back two years later
  • Has called on critics of Jeremy Corbyn to be de-selected