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  1. ITV Report

Chris Williamson’s Labour suspension lifted after anti-Semitism row

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt

Labour is at the centre of a fresh storm over its handling of anti-Semitism allegations after MP Chris Williamson’s suspension was lifted.

He was issued with a formal warning following his comments that the party had been “too apologetic” in response to criticism over its handling of anti-Semitism allegations.

Derby North MP Mr Williamson was suspended in February after video footage showed him telling a meeting of the grassroots Momentum group that Labour’s reaction to anti-Semitism allegations had led to the party being “demonised”.

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Mr Williamson was also filmed saying he had celebrated the resignation of MP Joan Ryan, who quit Labour in protest over the handling of anti-Semitism and bullying complaints.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews said the lifting of his suspension was a disgrace.

Some in the Labour Party have criticised the decision to reinstate Mr Williamson, alleging that changes were made to the judging panel which made it more favourable to the 62-year-old.

A source close to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's office has insisted this was not the case.

Chris Williamson could face more severe action if he repeats similar comments or behaviour. Credit: PA

The suspension of the MP, a prominent supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, was lifted after a hearing of a National Executive Committee (NEC) anti-Semitism panel.

A Labour source said: “An NEC panel, advised by an independent barrister, found Chris Williamson had breached the Party’s rules and gave him a formal sanction.

“He could face further, more severe, action if he repeats any similar comments or behaviour.”

ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt said he had learnt that the panel deciding Mr Williamson's suspension should have met on Tuesday, but due to a "diary clash" it met on Wednesday instead, with two of the three members changed.

He added that some Labour MPs believe this changed panel "tipped the balance" in Mr Williamson's favour and also "ignored the recommendation of Labour staff who'd investigated Chris Williamson that his suspension should not be lifted and the case move onto the next disciplinary stage".

Hewitt added that a source close to Mr Corbyn's office dismissed this idea, adding that the "decision to lift CW's [Chris Williamson] suspension came as a 'surprise'".

The source also said the postponement of the panel was an "administrative mistake", and they did not accept that Wednesday's panel was more favourable to Mr Williamson.

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Labour MP Stella Creasy suggested the timing of the case could be linked to the party’s efforts to get candidates in place for the next election.

MPs have been given until July 8 to say if they wish to seek re-selection in their seats.

Ms Creasy said: “The decision to let Chris Williamson back into party in time for him to stand again as a Labour candidate is best example yet of why we need an independent process for anti-Semtism and sexual harassment complaints and not mates’ rates.”

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Veteran Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge, who is Jewish, said: “This shows that the complaints process is a complete sham.

“This is not zero tolerance.

"This is letting your political pals back in and turning a blind eye to Jew-hate.

"Every decent Labour Party member must challenge this.”

Amanda Bowman, vice president of the Board of Deputies, added: “This is an utter disgrace.”

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Gideon Falter, chief executive of Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “The decision to reinstate him shows that the Labour Party’s leadership holds British Jews in contempt and demonstrates that the Equality and Human Rights Commission was right to act on our referral and open a full statutory investigation into Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis.”

Tory leadership hopeful Boris Johnson said it was “shameful that Labour have reinstated this key Corbyn ally back into their party after his appalling remarks”.

“We must never allow these apologists for anti-Semitism anywhere near government,” he said.

A Labour Party spokesperson said: “The Labour Party takes all complaints extremely seriously, which are investigated in line with our rules and procedures.

“We can’t comment on individual cases.”