UK Politics

Chris Williamson: Labour refers anti-Semitism claims against MP to new panel

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

Labour MP Chris Williamson remains suspended over anti-Semitism allegations pending a final decision over his future in the party.

The party's Disputes Committee decided on Tuesday to refer his case to a new panel for consideration.

He was readmitted to the party last month after a suspension for claiming Labour had "given too much ground" over anti-Semitism complaints.

He was suspended again two days later after a backlash from Jewish groups.

Many fellow Labour MPs have called for him to be barred from standing at the next election.

Mr Williamson has vowed to fight to remain a member and expressed concerns about a "lack of due process and consistency" in the handling of his case.

A number of his supporters gathered outside Labour's National Executive Committee's (NEC) headquarters ahead of Tuesday's meeting calling for him to be re-instated.

But rather than taking a decision, the Disputes Committee referred the matter to a new panel, to be convened as soon as possible.

This means he remains suspended and is barred from taking the party whip in Parliament.

Image copyright Alison Carter
Image caption Supporters of Chris Williamson outside Labour's NEC headquarters

The new panel's decision must be approved by the NEC, and the case may also be passed onto the party's National Constitutional Committee - the highest body in Labour's disciplinary procedures.

If that happens, it will be for the NCC to finally decide whether Mr Williamson can stand as a Labour MP or how long any suspension will last.

Labour has struggled to contain a long-running row over anti-Semitism, which prompted nine MPs to quit the party earlier this year.

Those problems intensified on Tuesday when three Labour members of the House of Lords - Lords Triesman, Darzi and Turnberg - said they were also leaving the party over the issue.

The row over Mr Williamson began when the Derby North MP was filmed at a meeting in Sheffield telling activists Labour had been "too apologetic" over anti-Semitism and was being "demonised as a racist, bigoted party".

The case will be discussed by a new panel made up of three members of the Disputes Committee and will take place "as soon as possible".

Party sources maintain that under its rules the Disputes Committee cannot send cases to the ultimate disciplinary body, the NCC, but the new panel will have the power to do so.

The new panel, of course, could also reach the same decision as the old panel and reinstate Chris Williamson rather than refer him for further disciplinary action.

Meanwhile, he remains suspended from Labour - meaning that if there is a snap election he wouldn't be eligible to stand.

Mr Williamson said he "deeply" regretted the remarks and did not want anyone to think he was "minimising the cancer of anti-Semitism".

He was readmitted in June after an investigation by a three-person NEC panel, but more than 100 Labour MPs and peers subsequently signed a letter calling on Mr Corbyn to act and remove the whip again.

One of the NEC panel members - former minister Keith Vaz - then called the disciplinary process into question, meaning the issues he raised needed to be looked into - and Mr Williamson was suspended again.

Jewish groups, including the Jewish Labour Movement and the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, have called for stronger action against him.

A letter purporting to be from over 100 Jewish signatories was published in the Guardian calling for him to be re-instated, but the letter has since been removed "pending investigation".

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