'He has to go': Momentum leader joins more than 120 Labour MPs and peers in demanding Chris Williamson lose whip over antisemitism
Jon Lansman says the MP showed ‘not one iota of contrition nor any acknowledgement of wrongdoing following a further formal warning from the Labour Party’
The decision to allow Mr Williamson back into Labour at the conclusion of a four-month disciplinary inquiry caused widespread anger. He had claimed the party had been “too apologetic” in tackling anti-Jewish abuse in its ranks.
More than 120 Labour MPs and peers have now joined the party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, in demanding Mr Corbyn step in and strip his former ally of the whip.
A number of senior party figures appear in the list of signatories, including frontbenchers Gloria De Piero, a shadow justice minister, Jenny Chapman, a shadow Brexit minister, and shadow business minister Chi Onwurah.
Jon Lansman, a key ally of Mr Corbyn and founder of the grassroots organisation Momentum, added his voice to the calls, claiming Mr Williamson had not shown “one iota of contrition or any acknowledgement of wrongdoing”.
After his suspension was overturned on Wednesday, Mr Williamson wrote a post online to say he now wanted to focus on delivering a Corbyn-led government. ”I’d like to express my heartfelt thanks for the avalanche of goodwill messages from grassroots members,” he added.
The decision to readmit Mr Williamson back into Labour’s ranks with a formal warning was made by a panel of three members of Labour’s ruling executive body.
In a letter that circulated among the Parliamentary Labour Party on Thursday evening, the MPs wrote: “It is clear to us that the Labour Party’s disciplinary process remains mired by the appearance of political interference. This must stop. We need a truly independent process.
“Ultimately, it is for Jeremy Corbyn to decide whether Chris Williamson retains the Labour whip. He must remove it immediately if we are to stand any hope of persuading anyone that the Labour Party is taking antisemitism seriously.”
But a Labour source told The Independent on Friday: “Only the NEC panel has the power to make the decision. The leader of the party is not involved in the disciplinary processes of individual cases, which are independent of the leader. It would be wholly inappropriate for the leader to pick and choose cases in the way that is being demanded.”
They added: “Several of the MPs who have signed in the past argued against political interference.”
Campaigning in Hartlepool on Thursday, Mr Corbyn also defended the way the case was dealt with and said the party took all allegations of antisemitism “very, very seriously”.
He said: “I wasn’t involved in the decision at all, it was an independent panel set up through the National Executive, they examined the case and they’ve decided to let him back in, albeit with a reprimand.
“They went through the case, they interviewed him and they went through the case in great detail, and the three of them on the panel made that decision.
“We deal with antisemitism very, very seriously, there is no place for antisemitism in our society and obviously not in our party as well.
“Anyone that makes antisemitic remarks can expect to be at the very least reprimanded and, if they are very serious and they engage in antisemitic activity, then they are expelled from the party.”
In a separate letter, sent to the party’s general secretary, Jennie Formby, almost 70 Labour staff members expressed their “dismay” at the panel’s decision.
They said: “The decision to readmit Chris Williamson into the party will help to create an environment where Jewish and non-Jewish employees, who care deeply about fighting antisemitism, are made to feel unwelcome by his presence whilst at work.”