Two days after reinstatement, Labour MP again suspended amid anti-Semitism row

Corbyn ally Chris Williamson loses whip while new decision on ban pending; senior members of UK opposition party decry ‘offensive and reputationally damaging’ decision to reinstate

Labour lawmaker Chris Williamson, seen in 2018 (Jack Taylor/Getty Images via JTA)
Labour lawmaker Chris Williamson, seen in 2018 (Jack Taylor/Getty Images via JTA)

The UK Labour Party on Friday reportedly reimposed the suspension of an MP two days after it was lifted, amid an ongoing furore over the party’s handling of complaints of anti-Semitism.

Chris Williamson, a Corbyn ally, was filmed in February telling a meeting that the party was “too apologetic” and had “given too much ground” in its response to anti-Semitism allegations.

He was reinstated Wednesday after being suspended pending an ethics review.

However a member of the panel which allowed Williamson’s return to the party, Keith Vaz MP, said he felt the decision should be reconsidered.

Former Foreign Office Minister Keith Vaz leaves a journalists’ briefing at the House of Commons in London, Feb. 8, 2002 (AP Photo/POOL)

Following Vaz’s comments, the Labour general secretary, Jennie Formby, told the party’s national executive that Williamson’s case would be on the agenda for the next meeting of its disputes committee, the Guardian reported.

“Subsequently, the whip is not restored as the decision is still pending,” a source told the BBC.

Williamson, an MP from Derby North, tweeted on Friday that he is “naturally concerned by the lack of due process and consistency in how my case is being handled.”

Some 90 senior members of the Labour Party have urged its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to expel Williamson.

The demand came soon after the party lifted its suspension of the lawmaker on Wednesday — Labour has been split apart by claims that the party has become hostile to Jews under the far-left Corbyn, a harsh Israel critic and longtime supporter of the Palestinian cause.

Deputy leader Tom Watson posted a statement signed by 90 Labour lawmakers on Twitter Thursday, calling on Corbyn to “show leadership by asking for this inappropriate, offensive and reputationally damaging decision to be overturned and reviewed.”

Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, left, talks with deputy leader Tom Watson, during the start of the party’s annual conference in Liverpool, England, September 23, 2018. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)

The signatories, among whom were MPs and peers, said they felt “hurt and anger” over the decision and raised questions about “the fairness of the process.”

“It is clear to us that the Labour Party’s disciplinary process remains mired by the appearance on political interference. This must stop. We need a truly independent process,” the letter stated.

It also said the case was “particularly important” due to the ongoing investigation into anti-Semitism in Labour by the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission, a government watchdog that is looking into thousands of cases of anti-Semitic hate speech in the party’s ranks since 2015.

“Ultimately, it is for Jeremy Corbyn to decide whether Chris Williamson retains the Labour whip. He must remove it immediately if we are to stand any hope of persuading anyone that the Labour Party is taking antisemitism seriously,” the letter said.

Watson told Sky News he was “bewildered” by the reinstatement and that the letter’s signatories were “shocked by it because we know the offense caused by Chris Williamson to the Jewish community in Britain.”

Corbyn told reporters he was not involved in Williamson’s reinstatement and defended the party’s handling of anti-Semitism, saying Labour takes the issue “very, very seriously.”

“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 antisemitic activity, then they are expelled from the party,” he was quoted as saying by Sky.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn campaigns for Lisa Forbes in Peterborough, England, on June 1, 2019. (Danny Lawson/PA via AP)

Since his election in 2015 to head Labour, Corbyn has fought allegations that his critical attitude toward Israel and alleged tolerance of anti-Semitism have injected Jew-hatred into the heart of the party.

In 2009, Corbyn called Hamas and Hezbollah his friends and said that Hamas is working to achieve peace and justice. In 2013, he defended an anti-Semitic mural. In 2014, he laid flowers on the graves of Palestinian terrorists who murdered Israeli athletes in Munich in 1972. The following year he said British “Zionists” don’t understand British irony.

Williamson in February booked a room in Parliament for a screening of a film by activist Jackie Walker titled “Witch Hunt” about her suspension from Labour over anti-Semitism.

Earlier that month, nine lawmakers quit the party, criticizing the leadership’s handling of anti-Semitism. One of them, Luciana Berger, tweeted in response to Williamson’s words, saying “This is what I have left behind. It’s toxic.”

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