Chris Williamson, a senior ally of embattled Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, has been caught on camera telling a meeting of the far-left Momentum group that the party had been “too apologetic” in its response to anti-Semitic complaints.
Williamson, one of Corbyn’s leading supporters in parliament, said allegations of anti-Semitism had falsely “demonised” the Labour Party and that the organization had “given too much ground” to its critics. The Jewish Chronicle revealed that, in addition, the Derby North MP had branded parliamentarians who stood in solidarity with a Jewish MP as “white privileged.”
The words of a racist mean nothing to us. You’re complicit in the destruction of the Labour Party as a democratic force for good. https://t.co/s6hYXCgoE5
— Julie Lenarz (@MsJulieLenarz) February 27, 2019
After facing massive criticism from within Labour and the government, Williamson later apologized.
A fellow Labour MP, Wes Streeting, dismissed his apology as insincere. “I believe you have deliberately baited Jewish people in our Party and across the country,” Streeting said in a response on Twitter.
Luciana Berger, a Jewish MP who quit the Labour Party over its anti-Semitism problem, wrote on social media of the video: “This is what I have left behind. It’s toxic. Our country deserves so much better. ChangePolitics.”
Williamson caused controversy earlier in the week when the Board of Deputies accused him of “trolling the Jewish community” for booking a committee room in parliament for the screening of a film defending activist Jackie Walker, who was suspended from Labour over comments about anti-Semitism.
In response to his comments, Williamson was placed under investigation by Labour over a “pattern of behavior” that suggests hostility toward the Jewish people. Some in the party, however, criticized the leadership for not going far enough, accusing them of protecting the leading Corbyn ally.
Labour deputy leader Tom Watson wrote to the party’s Chief Whip Nick Brown and General Secretary Jennie Formby to demand that Williamson is expelled for bringing Labour into “disrepute.” Watson charged that Williamson’s comment “amounts to a Labour MP breaching the party’s code of conduct on antisemitism in a public forum” and called on Labour “as a party to uphold and defend the processes we have set up to tackle antisemitism.
I formally request that Chris Williamson has the Labour whip removed from him and/or is suspended from the Labour Party.” The party’s National Executive Committee reacted to mounting pressure and eventually suspended Williamson.
Failure by the party’s leadership to confront toxic levels of anti-Semitism was cited among the reasons for leaving Labour by several MPs who quit the party for the Independent Group last week.
“Since Jeremy Corbyn took over the leadership in 2015, allegations of anti-Semitism in the party have skyrocketed and, on more than one occasion, Corbyn was the one at the center of the storm,” The Israel Project Senior Fellow Julie Lenarz wrote last year. “The reaction from his quarter to serious allegations of racism has been absolutely consistent. Whitewash the problem. Demonize the victims. Shame those reporting it.”
[Photo: Johnwhitby / WikiCommons ]