Chris Williamson has been suspended from the Labour Party, after months of reporting by Forge Press on his behaviour culminated in him branding his party as “too apologetic” over antisemitism.
The close Jeremy Corbyn ally, who a previous Sheffield Labour Students committee invited to campus in November before retracting it after widespread outcry, said Labour had “given too much ground” on antisemitism at an event in Sheffield on Saturday.
He has been suspended “pending investigation” after many Labour MPs, including the party’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson, called for the whip to be withdrawn and for Williamson to face further action.
Footage from the event at a Sheffield Church showed the MP for Derby North telling a group of Labour activists that Labour was being “demonised as a racist, bigoted party”.
Our reporting from day one:
- Fallout after SLS invited Williamson to campus
- University defends invitation citing no-platform debate
- RECENT: SLS committee member found on talk event list
- TODAY: Williamson says Labour “too apologetic” on antisemitism
Williamson also faced a censure by party officials on Tuesday after he helped arrange the screening of a film defending Jackie Walker, an activist suspended from the party for two years after she made comments allegedly undermining antisemitism and the Holocaust.
Forge Press reported last week that SLS had indirect links to the event after it was promoted by an activist on their public Facebook discussion group, and our reporter found one committee member on the ‘going’ list on a Facebook event.
SLS confirmed today that no member of the society physically attended the talk.
A long time coming – the tip of the iceberg
But the talk, organised by the Sheffield branch of the pro-Corbyn grassroots campaign group Momentum, is only the tip of the iceberg of behaviour that Forge Press has been covering for months.
Sheffield Students’ Union’s Jewish Society said the suspension is a long time coming after he previously called antisemitism claims within his party “a dirty, lowdown trick” and tweeted accounts linked to Holocaust denial and revisionism.
WATCH: Chris Williamson tells a Sheffield Momentum meeting that Labour has been "too apologetic" about anti-Semitism… pic.twitter.com/zxtKdHQPvw
— Liz Bates (@wizbates) February 26, 2019
“We are relieved to see that Chris Williamson has finally been suspended from the Labour Party,” JSoc said.
“Although this decision should have been taken months ago, it is an important step in fighting antisemitism, and a vindication of the stand we took against him in November.”
Forge Press reported last term that the co-chair of JSoc, Gabe Milne, resigned his Labour membership in protest after SLS, Sheffield SU’s Labour activism group – then under a different leadership, invited the Derby North MP to speak at the University in November.
Chris Williamson is bringing the Labour party into disrepute over anti-semitism. This is a test of seriousness on our part about the whole issue. Disciplinary action, not simply an apology, is required.
— Ed Miliband (@Ed_Miliband) February 27, 2019
Nine Labour MPs left the Labour Party last week to form a breakaway ‘Independent Group’, blaming an “evil” institutional culture of antisemitism.
Luciana Berger, one of the breakaway MPs, tweeted that Chris Williamson’s behaviour “is what I have left behind. It’s toxic. Our country deserves so much better.”
Last week, ahead of the event, Mr Milne said Williamson’s return to the Steel City was “a disgrace” and that he has received “dozens of messages on Twitter of abuse and it’s all because of the actions of these people” on the hard-left in Sheffield.
He went on to claim that the decision to hold the event on a Saturday afternoon was deliberate so that Jewish people could not attend, and said it “was really sad” that a Church had decided to host the event.
Former Labour leader Ed Miliband said Williamson “is bringing the Labour Party into disrepute over anti-Semitism” and called for disciplinary action earlier today, while fellow Labour MP Yvette Cooper tweeted that she was “appalled”.
Where did the campus scandal begin?
Two committee members resigned in protest after SLS ploughed on with the panel discussion at the University despite the uproar, after Williamson tweeted in defense of an expelled Labour member who criticised Marks and Spencer for having “Jewish blood” and “Jewish ancestry”.
After Forge Press questioned the University for deeming Williamson ‘safe’ to come to campus and not representing a threat to staff or students, management defended the decision of University Security on the grounds of free speech.
JSoc told SLS it had “betrayed Jewish students”, prompting Williamson to publicly abuse JSoc in a column where he called the students “haters” and “opponents of socialism”.
In minutes of a committee meeting at the time, SLS branded Williamson as “part of our movement,” going on to say that it is “unfair to rescind an invitation based on no evidence”.
They later retracted Williamson’s invitation amid a Met Police probe into alleged hate crimes within the Labour party, although Williamson was not thought to be part of the investigation.
Jennie Formby, Labour’s general secretary, earlier this month said the party had received nearly 700 complaints in 10 months alleging acts of antisemitism by members.