A member of the UK Parliament who was suspended over remarks relating to antisemitism in the Labour Party has been reinstated, a move which the vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews has called an “utter disgrace”.
Chris Williamson, who represents England’s Derby North constituency in the House of Commons was suspended from the Labour Party in March over his comments but has now had the whip returned.
The suspension related to remarks for which he was heavily applauded, when Mr Williamson told a meeting of Momentum — the pro-Jeremy-Corbyn campaign group that some claim has infiltrated the Labour party — that far from having an antisemitism problem, Labour was actually doing more than other parties to tackle the problem. He said: “I’ve got to say, I think our party’s response has been partly responsible… We’ve backed up too much, we’ve given too much ground, we’ve been too apologetic.”
He later issued a clarification, stating: “I deeply regret, and apologise for, my recent choice of words when speaking about how the Labour party has responded to the ongoing fight against antisemitism inside of our party. I was trying to stress how much the party has done to tackle antisemitism.”
His comments came as Labour remained under a sustained period of controversy over antisemitic attitudes among its members and activists which have been linked to the leadership of hard-leftist Jeremy Corbyn. A longstanding supporter of Palestine and a critic of Israel, Corbyn has been blamed for changing the environment within Labour that has allowed antisemitism to flourish.
Labour-friendly British newspaper The Guardian reports Williamson was reinstated after a meeting of a lower party panel which found that he had breached party rules. The report claims he was sanctioned, but the matter was never referred up to a higher body that could have expelled him from Labour altogether.
Britain’s state broadcaster the BBC reports the comments of Mike Katz, the chair of the Jewish Labour Movement who said the reinstatement “stinks”. The vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Amanda Bowman, said Wednesday’s development was “an utter disgrace”.
Bowman said the decision to readmit Willaimson was “more damning evidence” of Labour antisemitism.
Williamson also courted controversy in 2017 when he called for segregated railway carriages for women to create a “safe space” on public transport.