UK Labour member suspended again days after being readmitted

Chris Williamson, whose suspension over anti-Semitic comments was lifted this week, suspended again after backlash over his reinstatement.

Ben Ariel, Canada ,

Chris Williamson with Jeremy Corbyn
Chris Williamson with Jeremy Corbyn

A member of the British Labour party whose suspension over anti-Semitic comments was lifted earlier this week has once again been suspended following backlash.

The decision to cancel the readmission of Chris Williamson, who was suspended from the party for saying it is “too apologetic” over anti-Semitism, came after a group of 90 MPs and peers from Labour signed an open letter condemning the decision to reinstate him.

Party deputy leader Tom Watson was among dozens of senior figures who spoke of their "hurt and anger" at the move, Sky News reported Friday.

Labour suspended Williamson in February pending an ethics review, after he said earlier in the year that when it comes to Labour’s anti-Semitism problem, its deniers “have backed off too much, we have given too much ground, we have been too apologetic.”

On Wednesday, the MP had his suspension lifted after a hearing of Labour's National Executive Committee (NEC) anti-Semitism panel.

Watson told Sky News he was "bewildered" by the decision, which he said was "made by only two members of a three person panel of our NEC", and said those who signed the letter were "shocked by it because we know the offence caused by Chris Williamson to the Jewish community in Britain."

"The magnitude of the upset and the anger was palpable when he was suspended and therefore it obviously required a full inquiry," he said.

"Their decision has stopped that from happening, it's closed down the party procedure, which is a great shame and very regrettable and it's the wrong decision," added Watson.

Watson said he had not spoken to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn about the decision, but called on him to "step in and remove the whip and ask our chief whip to investigate and do a parliamentary inquiry through the parliamentary party."

"I don't want this century old institution to be tainted. These two committee members have let half a million party members down in their decision and it's completely wrong," added Watson.

Following the criticism, Labour reinstated the suspension on Williamson, according to The Independent.

The party said the decision to lift his suspension was now under review and he would therefore not be allowed to sit as a Labour MP.

Jennie Formby, Labour’s general secretary, wrote to members of the NEC to inform them that the case would be discussed at their next meeting.

A Labour source said, “Subsequently, the whip is not restored as the decision is still pending.”

Williamson is one among dozens of Labour members who have been suspended over their anti-Semitic statements in recent years.

Corbyn himself has been accused of holding anti-Semitic views by senior UK Jewish leaders. Corbyn has also been criticized for calling Hamas and Hezbollah his "friends" and for outright refusing to condemn those two terrorist organizations despite being urged to do so by local Jewish groups.

Much of the criticism against Corbyn is over his playing down the anti-Semitism in his party and alienating Jews. A report released in October of 2016 determined that the Labour party’s leadership is failing to seriously confront the anti-Semitism among its ranks.

Corbyn insists he is not an anti-Semite. In an interview with the BBC in September of 2018 he described anti-Semitism “as a scourge in any society, I have opposed it all my life…I have spent my whole life opposing racism in any form and I will die fighting racism."

Asked about Williamson’s reinstatement, Corbyn told reporters he was not involved in the decision.

"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,” he said.

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

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)