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Fri, 29 May 2020

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EXCL Jeremy Corbyn ally Chris Williamson 'deeply regrets' past votes for military action

EXCL Jeremy Corbyn ally Chris Williamson 'deeply regrets' past votes for military action

Emilio Casalicchio

3 min read

Firebrand Labour MP Chris Williamson has laid bare his “deep regret” over voting to support military action in the Middle East.


The Derby North MP - a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn - said he was “wrong” to back military intervention in Libya in 2011 and action against Isis in 2014.

He also rued his decision to follow the Labour whip and abstain on the 2014 Immigration Bill - the landmark legislation that ushered in the current crisis facing the Windrush generation.

Mr Williamson has come out hard against the military action in Syria this month in the wake of the suspected gas attack in Douma.

He condemned the UK, US and French coalition as “sabre-rattling warmongers” after they bombed Syrian regime targets, and warned a “slaughter” would be unleashed.

In an interview for PoliticsHome's sister title The House magazine, Mr Williamson said he had changed tack on UK interventions since his first stint as an MP between 2010 and 2015 because “the scales have fallen from my eyes”.

After backing airstrikes against Isis in Iraq in 2014, he voted for a Commons motion which praised their effectiveness and intervened on Jeremy Corbyn to question the future leader over his anti-strikes stance.

Mr Williamson insisted he was not contradicting Mr Corbyn when he asked him to consider whether airstrikes had helped degrade the extremist group. 

But on his backing the motion praising the decision to drop bombs, he added: “That is a huge regret and I agonised about that decision, I have got to say...

“I was conflicted right up to the point to decide which lobby to go in…

“In the end I went along with the whip – and it’s to my eternal regret really that I did that on that occasion.”

On his backing for the 2011 intervention in Libya, he said: “Ed Miliband called me into his office in relation to that decision because I was very conflicted and I think he knew that.

“And basically he said ‘trust me on this’ and so I went along with it.

“But I was wrong to do so. I should have listened to the subsequent leader rather than the existing leader.”

And on his decision to abstain on the 2014 Immigration Bill, he lamented: “I do regret that.”

He suggested he argued to reject the bill behind the scenes, but added: “I think it was a mistake, absolutely...

“If I’m being honest, I didn’t study it enough or fully appreciate the implications.”

PFI 'A BULLSHIT SCHEME'

However, Mr Williamson stood by his backing of controversial PFI schemes when he served on Derby City Council - arguing they were “the only show in town”.

As leader he boasted of spearheading a scheme to renovate 150 social dwellings for affordable rent, and he gave the green light to a handful of PFI schools.

But in the interview he said: “It was a bullshit scheme. I wouldn't have chosen it at all. It didn’t give value for money.

“But what were we supposed to do as a local authority? We either [do it or] say we are not going to build these schools or we are not going to refurbish these unfit dwellings.”

Labour under Mr Corbyn has vowed to abolish PFI if it wins power and bring existing contracts back into the public sector.

Mr Williamson came under fire yesterday for speaking on behalf of activist Marc Wadsworth after he was suspended from Labour over allegations of anti-Semitism.

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