EXCL Corbyn ally Chris Williamson under fire after attending rally for expelled party activist

Posted On: 
31st May 2018

Labour MP Chris Williamson has come under fire after attending a campaign event for an activist who was expelled from the party amid a row over anti-Semitism.

The Derby North MP described Marc Wadsworth's Labour expulsion as "plainly absurd" - and predicted he would be reinstated.

Marc Wadsworth was suspended from Labour in 2016 after accusing Labour MP Ruth Smeeth of working "hand in hand" with Telegraph journalist Kate McCann to undermine Jeremy Corbyn at the launch of the Chakrabarti report into anti-Jewish abuse.

He was expelled by Labour last month following an investigation which concluded that he had acted in a way that was "grossly detrimental to the party".

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But Derby North MP Mr Williamson - who appeared as a witness at Mr Wadsworth's hearing - has continued to fight the activist's corner, last night attending a Manchester meeting of a national '#Justice4Marc' speaking tour aimed at clearing his name.

Mr Williamson told PoliticsHome he stood by his decision to attend the event - and predicted that the party would eventually reinstate the controversial campaigner.

He said: "Marc is a veteran anti-racist campaigner and the National Constitutional Committee's decision has besmirched the reputation of a good man, so it cannot be allowed to go unchallenged.

"I gave evidence on his behalf at the original NCC hearing a couple of months ago and was shocked by the outcome, because the decision was inconsistent with the evidence."

The Labour MP - a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn - said Mr Wadsworth had been "expelled for asking a question at a press conference", a decision he described as "plainly absurd".

Mr Williamson added: "Their decision was inconsistent with Labour's reputation as a party that stands up for natural justice, which is another reason why it should be overturned.

"The support from grassroots members for Marc Wadsworth's campaign is considerable and I am confident that he will eventually be reinstated."

But Mr Williamson's decision to fight the campaigner's corner drew swift condemnation from Richard Angell of centre-left Labour group Progress, who suggested the Derby North MP's actions undermine vows to crack down on abuse in the party.

Mr Angell told PoliticsHome: "Chris has long been part of the problem, it is time the whips acted."

That view was echoed by the Labour Against Anti-Semitism group, which said: “Jeremy Corbyn has repeatedly been asked to instruct his MPs not to share platforms with expelled members.

“Chris Williamson MP needs to have the whip withdrawn for this provocative action which will only cause further anger & distress.”

Labour sources say Mr Williamson has been spoken to and asked not to appear alongside Mr Wadsworth in the future.

The heated row comes as Labour chiefs continue to draw up plans to improve the way the party deals with abuse cases. A leaked document yesterday revealed that the party is considering anonymising cases to avoid "political forces" swaying key disciplinary decisions.

In a statement, Mr Wadsworth told PoliticsHome his lawyers had written to Labour with concerns about what he called "the defects of the case".

He added: "As a result, I hope the party will understand I have not had a fair disciplinary process and will therefore set aside the decision to expel me, not least because the relevant changes recommended by the Shami Chakrabarti report had not been implemented at the time.

"I don’t think this matter should be one for the courts, triggering more financial cost and adverse publicity that would be to the detriment of the party and its members."