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Sun, 5 April 2020

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Chris Williamson is finally suspended by Labour as party launches probe into anti-semitism comments

Chris Williamson is finally suspended by Labour as party launches probe into anti-semitism comments
4 min read

Labour has finally suspended Chris Williamson over his latest anti-semitism row - just hours after insisting they were not going to.


Party bosses said they had removed the whip from him pending an investigation into a "pattern of behaviour" going back months.

The shock announcement came despite a spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn announcing earlier that the Derby North MP would not be suspended while the probe was going on.

It is understood the U-turn came after an initial review of his behaviour by senior party officials. Their findings were passed to Labour general secretary Jennie Formby, who made the decision to suspend him.

Mr Williamson was served with a "notice of investigation into a pattern of behaviour" after it emerged he told a meeting of Sheffield Momentum that Labour had been "too apologetic" over its anti-semitism problem.

To applause from those present, Mr Williamson said: "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 anti-semitism than any other political party. Any other political party. And yet we are being traduced.”

Mr Williamson eventually issued an apology, in which he said: "I deeply regret and apologise for my recent choice of words when speaking about how the Labour party has responded to the ongoing fight against anti-semitism inside of our party. I was trying to stress how much the party has done to tackle anti-semitism.

"Our movement can never be 'too apologetic' about racism within our ranks."

Initially, a spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn said: "Downplaying anti-semitism makes it harder for us to tackle it.

"Chris Williamson has rightly apologised and withdrawn his remarks and has been issued with a notice of investigation into a pattern of behaviour, and is not suspended during the investigation."

But in a later statement, they said: "Chris Williamson is suspended from the party, and therefore the whip, pending investigation."

Responding to the news of his suspension, Mr Williamson told Sky News: "It's within the party process and I will be working to clear my name. It's a process that the party is going to go through and I will be working to clear my name, I mean I just need to see what is being said and take it from there."

FILM ROW

The latest row came just hours after Labour chiefs also condemned Mr Williamson for hosting a film in Parliament about an activist suspended by Labour over anti-semitism claims.

He had reserved committee room 12 on Monday evening for a screening of "Witchhunt", an hour-long documentary about Jackie Walker.

Ms Walker was suspended by Labour in 2016 for claiming it would "be wonderful if Holocaust day was open to all people who experienced holocaust".

The MP also sparked controversy in 2017 by insisting that claims Labour had a problem with anti-Jewish racism within its ranks were a "dirty lowdown trick" and being used for "political ends"

In December, he was forced to apologise after giving his support to a musician accused of anti-semitism and Holocaust denial.

But earlier this month, Mr Corbyn defended his colleague against accusations of anti-semitism.

He said: "Chris Williamson is a very good, very effective Labour MP. He’s a very strong anti-racist campaigner. He is not anti-semitic in any way."

BANNED

PoliticsHome can also reveal that prior to his suspension, Labour MPs had agreed to ban Mr Williamson from their weekly meetings.

In an unprecedented move, members of the party's parliamentary committee - which is made up MPs from across the country - agreed to write to him requesting he stay away from the weekly gatherings of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

It is believed to be the first time in the history of the party that such a course of action has been taken.

One committee member told PoliticsHome: "I couldn't stand being in the same room as him."

Read the most recent article written by Kevin Schofield - Momentum vows to 'hold Keir Starmer to account' after Labour left suffers heavy defeats

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