We are deeply concerned about the suspension of Chris Williamson MP for Derby North over allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’ after a recording of him speaking at a Momentum meeting was released recently. We stand in solidarity with Chris, who we fully expect to be cleared as soon as possible by Labour’s investigation – in line with our Labour core values of fairness and natural justice.
Many of the undersigned are members of Oxfordshire CLPs (Wantage, Henley, East Oxford and West Oxford & Abingdon). We have been delighted to welcome Chris to two local meetings this year. He has fitted these events into a busy schedule, being generous with his time and knowledge, speaking on subjects ranging from the impact of austerity cuts, the role of local government in delivering for the many, the current rise of fascism and how we can combat it, developments in South America, animal rights and Brexit. Chris is very clearly a committed anti-racist, working to support all oppressed groups – locally and internationally – demonstrating our Labour Party core values and principles. He is engaging, knowledgeable and extremely hard working, making time to speak at local political education meetings as well as national events about Labour policy and wider international issues with insight and clarity. As such, he is a credit and an asset to the Labour party. (See also the support for Chris in a recent statement by the Secretary of Derby Trades Council - https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/b/a-statement-by-the-secretary-of-derby-trades-council-on-the-suspension-of-chris-williamson-mp-from-labour)
Jeremy Corbyn recently said: “Chris Williamson is a very good, very effective Labour MP. He’s a very strong anti-racist campaigner. He is not anti-Semitic.” We agree with this description of Chris and believe that the allegations in question are unfounded and out of context. Chris Williamson actually said: “The party that has done more to stand up to racism is now being demonised as a racist, bigoted party. I have got to say, I think our party’s response has been partly responsible for that because in my opinion… we’ve backed off far too much, we have given too much ground, we’ve been too apologetic… We’ve done more to address the scourge of anti-Semitism than any other party.” These comments are neither anti-Semitic, nor denying the existence of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. He is simply expressing a sentiment that many of us have that we should not be overly apologetic for something we have not done, and in this case we have actively, as a party, worked tirelessly to ensure that anti-Semitism and all other forms of racism and bigotry are purged from our party, our movement, and our society as a whole.
Context – the facts shared recently by General Secretary Jennie Formby (and correct at the time of writing 01.03.19)
• Approximately 1,100 complaints were lodged between April 2018 and January 2019, but 433 (nearly 40 per cent) were found to relate to non-Labour Party members, which brought it down to 673. (That still leaves a problem in wider society though.)
• Of those complaints there was no evidence of a case to answer in 220 cases. That still leaves more than 400 members (out of approximately 550,000 — so around 0.07 per cent) who had expressed views concerning Jews that were judged as requiring further investigation and disciplinary action. Some received suspensions, others formal/written warnings about their behaviour, while just 12 were expelled.
• There are 24 cases that have reached the highest panel that remain outstanding, so that expulsion figure may well rise but not dramatically.
• There were two other statistics that seem important from Formby’s exemplary response: one is that 44 members quit Labour while their hearing was pending. That suggests that Labour is not at all a hospitable or comfortable place for anti-semites. It is likely that some of them knew they would be found out and they jumped before being pushed out. The other statistic relates to Margaret Hodge — who has personally submitted 200 of the complaints, but these were not about 200 separate individuals.
In this context, Chris Williamson’s comments in Sheffield make sense – but the context and statistics have not been widely reported or have been mis-reported.
We look forward to the Labour Party investigation moving speedily and expect that the outcome will lift his suspension and clear Chris’s name in good time for Chris to put his considerable energies and positivity into campaigning for Labour wins in the local elections in May.
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