Labour MP Chris Williamson suspended in anti-Semitism row


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Labour has suspended MP Chris Williamson over remarks about the party’s handling of anti-Semitism.

The Derby North MP said Labour had “given too much ground” in the face of criticism over the issue, but later said he “deeply regrets” the remarks.

A number of Labour MPs had called for his suspension and the parliamentary party said he was no longer welcome at their meetings.

A Labour spokesman confirmed he has now been suspended “pending investigation”.

Mr Williamson told Sky News he would be “working to clear my name within the processes of the party”.

The row erupted after footage was published by the Yorkshire Post, showing Mr Williamson, who is a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn, telling activists Labour had been “too apologetic” over anti-Semitism and was being “demonised as a racist, bigoted party”.

It also came just a week after nine Labour MPs quit the party, citing anti-Semitism as one of the main reasons for the move.

At a meeting earlier on Wednesday, at which Mr Corbyn and the party’s general secretary Jennie Formby were not present, the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) agreed the Mr Williamson should be suspended immediately.

Labour had put the MP under “formal notice of investigation” over a “pattern of behaviour” relating to the long-running row over anti-Semitism, but a decision was later taken by Ms Formby to suspend him.

Mr Williamson is reported to have held a meeting with aides of Mr Corbyn’s shortly before Prime Minister’s Questions began at midday.

Minutes later, he issued a statement on Twitter apologising, saying he never meant to downplay the “pernicious and cancerous” nature of anti-Semitism.

But senior figures called for Labour to go further and take disciplinary action, with ex-leader Ed Miliband describing the row as “a test” for the party.

A number of Labour MPs have taken to Twitter to welcome the decision by the party.

Margaret Hodge praised Labour’s “swift action”, adding: “This is what zero tolerance looks like.”

Wes Streeting also welcomed the suspension, adding: “We got there eventually and I hope that this sends a message to other people in the Labour Party that dismissing or delegitimising concerns about anti-Semitism isn’t acceptable.”

Mary Creagh said the suspension was “not a moment too soon”, and Stephen Kinnock tweeted: “About time.”





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