Labour bosses demand Chris Williamson apologise for 'deeply offensive' anti-semitism comments

Posted On: 
27th February 2019

Labour bosses have accused Chris Williamson of “downplaying the problem of anti-Semitism” after he claimed the party had been "too apologetic" about the issue.

Labour MP Chris Williamson has sparked a fresh controversy
PA Images

A spokesperson said the constroversial Derby North MP should apologise and withdraw the remarks, which he made at a Sheffield Momentum meeting and were captured on video.

Meanwhile, Labour deputy leader Tom Watson has written to the party's chief whip, Nick Brown, demanding he suspend the whip from Mr Williamson for bringing the party into disrepute.

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In the video, which was obtained by the Yorkshire Post, Mr Williamson revealed that he celebrated the resignation of Labour MPs last week by singing 1980s Kool and the Gang hit "Celebration" at "full blast" from his office.

And he joked that it could have been heard from the office of Joan Ryan, the chair of Labour Friends of Israel who quit the party last week with a stinging attack on Jeremy Corbyn's handling of anti-Semitism complaints.

To applause from supporters, Mr Williamson told the meeting: "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.”

But  a Labour spokesman said: “These comments are deeply offensive and inappropriate and fall below the standards we expect of MPs.

“Downplaying the problem of anti-Semitism makes it harder for us to tackle it. Chris Williamson should apologise immediately and withdraw his remarks.”

PoliticsHome understands Labour chief whip Nick Brown and general secretary Jennie Formby are in talks about what action will be taken against Mr Williamson.

Jennifer Gerber, director of Labour Friends of Israel, told PoliticsHome: “How much longer will Chris Williamson get away with baiting the Jewish community?

“There should be no place for him in the Labour party, let alone in Parliament.

“The fact he still holds the Labour whip is yet more evidence - if any were needed - of the institutional anti-Semitism of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party.”

A string of MPs also lined up to condemn Mr Williamson after the video emerged, with Wes Streeting branding his comments “stomach churning”.

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.

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

She 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."