Lift Chris Williamson’s suspension – Stop the Witch hunt

Socialist Resistance calls for the lifting of the suspension of Derby North MP Chris Williamson from the Labour Party.

Chris has a long record of antiracism including opposition to antisemitism. Last August, for example, he said that antisemitism is “utterly repugnant and a scourge on society, which is why I stand in absolute solidarity with anyone who is subjected to antisemitic abuse”.

Chris has been a particular target of vilification by many on the right in the Parliamentary Labour Party and the broader Labour Party, not only for his consistent defence of the rights of the Palestinians but for his defence of Labour Party members, many of them Jewish, who have been subject to witch hunts.

In the wake of defections from the Party by former Labour MPs who have gone on to form the Independent Group, Chris made a verbal balance sheet of how the party has dealt with what Socialist Resistance has described as the weaponization of antisemitism.  

It is alleged that Williamson said that the LP was too apologetic about antisemitism. In fact, he said that they were too apologetic over claims that they were not dealing with antisemitism. This is significantly different.

Of course, antisemitism like all forms of racism should be taken extremely seriously. It has no place in our movement. But Jennie Formby’s recent report to the PLP allows us to look at the detail. Jewish Voice for Labour set it out:

Over the last ten months there were:

1,106 referrals of antisemitism allegations;

433 of these had nothing to do with party members, leaving 673 to be investigated;

220 of these were dismissed entirely for lack of evidence;

this left 453 cases;

453 is 0.08% of the party’s 540,000 members – that’s about 1/12th of 1%;

 96 of these resulted in suspensions – that’s 0.01%, or 1/100th of 1% of members;

there were twelve expulsions – that’s 0.002%, or 1/500th of 1% of members!

(and we would additionally point out, not all of those who had actions taken against them were necessarily guilty – there are questions of power involved).

As JVL continue: this is not a wave, it is not even a ripple. In nautical terms it’s almost a dead flat calm.

And of course, while cases that can be used to attack Corbyn are endlessly discussed in the media, there are massive double standards. The levels of racism and Islamophobia in the Tory Party don’t get anything like the same coverage.

Yesterday, under a barrage of complaints from other members of the PLP, including Deputy Leader Tom Watson, Chris made an apology. We don’t think he had anything to apologise for.

Indeed, proving the veracity of what he said, those gunning for him were not satisfied. If anything, the cries got louder, as did the argument that this was (another) test case for Jeremy Corbyn – with the unspoken implication that there would be further high-profile resignations from the PLP if Williamson were not sacrificed.

And that won’t be enough.

We note that attacks on the party, its leadership and democracy from the right don’t get the same treatment in the media. The disgraceful calls by Deputy Leader Tom Watson for the suspension of Wavertree Labour Party for attempting to discuss the actions of its MP were never questioned by the media.

And minutes after Williamson’s suspension was announced, Margaret Hodge was on Radio Four’s PM programme, alluding to the political links between Chris and suspended member Jackie Walker.

Jackie’s hearing is scheduled for March 26. Due process should mean that the allegations against her and her defence should be considered there. She should not be subject to trial by media – especially when she has no right of reply.

Nor are Hodge’s comments unique – Louise Ellman MP has also made a series of comments to the media which could be construed as seriously prejudicial to due process. But if any action has been taken on these grounds by the Labour Party, we certainly haven’t heard about them.

Hodge referred to the powerful film WitchHunt, which we strongly doubt she has actually seen, as “self-justification” by Walker. In fact, the key point of WitchHunt is that the real target of all of this furore is not antisemitism, not those individuals who have been targeted so far but the Corbyn leadership of the Labour Party.

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2 Comments on Lift Chris Williamson’s suspension – Stop the Witch hunt

  1. It’s worth mentioning that Chris Williamson was the sponsor of the showing in Parliament of the film WitchHunt about Jacqueline Walker’s treatment on behalf of Jewish Voice For Labour. This was forcibly cancelled, with the implication that nothing positive featuring Jacqueline Walker is “allowed” .

  2. Pete Bloomer // 4th March 2019 at 11:55 pm // Reply

    The level of support that exists for Williamson is great and there is real potential to have the suspension reversed. The strains to the loyalty of Momentum branches to Lansman is being severely tested by his launch of an ‘apologies for Labours anti-semitism’ petition.
    This would be the time to launch a real Labour Left co ordination, and call on momentum groups to join it.

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