EXCL Keith Vaz says decision to let Chris Williamson back into Labour party should be reconsidered

Posted On: 
27th June 2019

Keith Vaz has called for the decision to reinstate Chris Williamson to the Labour party to be reconsidered - despite voting for it himself.

Keith Vaz was part of the panel which voted to lift Chris Williamsons suspension.
Credit: 
PA Images

In a letter to Jennie Formby, the party's general secretary, the former minister called for the National Executive Committee panel on anti-semitism which made the ruling to be reconvened with different members.

He said that the fact that details of Mr Williamson's case were leaked to the media meant that the other 36 cases dealt with by the three-person panel "could potentially mount a legal challenge" against the party.

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Mr Vaz, the MP for Leicester East, also pointed out that he had been called in to sit on the panel at the last minute and had gone to the meeting "despite having medical treatment that day, which continued after the meeting".

He added: "The disciplinary process involved extremely serious matters .The process needs to be fair to all and to be seen to be fair and all must be treated equally and no favour should be shown to anyone.

"In my view, having served on the NEC for 15 years I consider the decisions the panel made yesterday cannot stand.

"In order to ensure complete integrity of the process either a new panel should be convened or all the cases from yesterday should be referred to the Disputes Committee for reconsideration."

Mr Vaz's intervention is a dramatic twist on a day which has seen civil war break out in the Labour party over the decision to lift Mr Williamson's suspension.

PoliticsHome revealed on Wednesday that Mr Williamson had been let off with a formal warning following an investigation into a "pattern" of allegedly anti-semitic behaviour.

Mr Vaz and fellow panel member Huda Elmi voted to let the Derby North MP off with a formal warning, despite a recommendation by Labour staff that his case be passed on to the next stage of the party's disciplinary processes.

The decision has sparked a furious backlash, with 90 Labour MPs and peers calling on Jeremy Corbyn to immediately remove the party whip from Mr Williamson.

Meanwhile, dozens of Labour party staff working in Parliament have also written to Ms Formby demanding a review of the decision.

They said: "We do not say this lightly: The decision to readmit Chris Williamson MP into the party will help to create an environment where Jewish and non-Jewish employees, who care deeply about fighting anti-semitism, are made to feel unwelcome by his presence whilst at work."

In his first public comments on the row, Jeremy Corbyn defended the Labour party's disciplinary procedures.

He said: "I wasn’t involved in the decision at all, it was an independent panel set up through the national executive, they examined the case and they’ve decided to let him back in, albeit with a reprimand.

"They went through the case, they interviewed him and they went through the case in great detail, and the three of them on the panel made that decision."

Mr Corbyn added: "We deal with anti-semitism very, very seriously, there is no place for anti-semitism in our society and obviously not in our party as well.

"Anyone that makes anti-semitic remarks can expect to be at the very least reprimanded and, if they are very serious and they engage in anti-Semitic activity, then they are expelled from the party."