Jeremy Corbyn defends ally Chris Williamson against anti-semitism claims
Jeremy Corbyn has defended Labour backbencher Chris Williamson against accusations that he is anti-semitic.
The Derby North MP 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".
He was also forced to apologise last month after giving his support to a musician accused of anti-semitism and Holocaust denial.
Mr Williamson signed and shared an online petition protesting at Islington Council's decision to ban Gilad Atzmon from performing at a concert in the north London borough.
After an outcry on social media, he said: "I've learned that Atzmon, a former Israeli soldier, is not confined to the jazz world. I am told that in various blogs and in speeches he has adopted antisemitic language. I wasn't aware of this until after I tweeted the petition.
"As soon as I was informed, I deleted the tweet. I've always condemned all forms of racism, including antisemitism, and strongly disassociate myself from Atzmon's antisemitic views. I therefore apologise for tweeting this petition and any distress or offence it may have caused."
Asked on a visit to Derbyshire whether he had concerns over the firebrand left-winger's record on anti-Semitism, Mr Corbyn told the Derby Telegraph: “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."
But the Jewish Labour Movement hit out at Mr Corbyn and insisted Chris Williamson should be kicked out of the party.
They tweeted: "Sorry @jeremycorbyn, but this is not for you to determine. It is for Jewish people and specifically Jewish members to determine. Chris Williamson is a Jew baiter and has gone out of his way to indulge antisemites in our party. The whip should be removed."