“We’ve done more to address the scourge of anti-Semitism than any political party.”
Chris Williamson’s remarks at the Momentum event were obtained by the Yorkshire Post.
To applause from those present, Mr Williamson 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 actually address the scourge of antisemitism than any other political party. Any other political party. And yet we are being traduced.”
Labour bosses demanded that he retract his comments and apologise, while deputy leader Tom Watson led calls for him to have the whip suspended.
Judge for yourself.
Chris issued a full apology.
Labour MP Chris Williamson has said “I deeply regret, and apologise for, my recent choice of words” after The Yorkshire Post revealed his claim that the party had “given too much ground” in its response to complaints of anti-Semitism. The apology came after a party spokesman said that the Derby North MP – a close ally of leader Jeremy Corbyn – should withdraw his “deeply offensive and inappropriate” remarks, which fell below the standards expected from MPs.
The Labour Party is an anti-racist party. It is the only party that has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with religious and ethnic minorities in their decades-long fight against racism, discrimination and prejudice In the United Kingdom.
On a personal level, I have been an anti-racist all my life. As a former member of the Anti-Nazi League. I participated in direct action to confront foul anti-Semites In the streets. I reject racism ethically and morally. It has no place in the Labour Party or in our country.
It pains me greatly, therefore, that anyone should believe that it is my intention to minimise the cancerous and pernicious nature of anti-Semitism. I deeply regret, and apologise for, my recent choice of words when speaking about how the Labour Party has responded to the ongoing fight against anti-Semitism inside of our party. I was trying to stress how much the party has done to tackle anti-Semitism.
Our movement can never be “too apologetic” about racism within our ranks. Whilst it Is true that there have been very few cases of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party – something I believe is often forgotten when discussing this Issue – it is also true that those few are too many.
It is precisely because of our party’s historic struggle against racism that we have taken it upon ourselves to strengthen our rules, to Improve our disciplinary procedures and to redouble our efforts to take on anti-Semites. We have held ourselves to a higher standard than any other political party when it comes to anti-racism – and rightly so.
I am therefore sorry for how I chose to express myself on this issue within our party. This Is a fight that I want to be an ally in. In future, I will take it upon myself to be more considered in my remarks. and ensure they reflect the Labour Party’s unswerving and unfaltering commitment to anti-racism and the fight against anti-Semitism.
Formby on Labours fight against AS
Two weeks ago some PLP members demanded to know what had happened to all the allegations of anti-semitism against Labour.
They were anticipating an inadequate reply and were already preparing their follow-up.
But Formby wrong-footed them by listing, under a series of headings, a comprehensive set of responses showing the progress that had been made in streamlining the process following complaints, making it quicker, fairer and more effective.
But the PLP questioners were not satisfied yet, and demanded facts and figures, which this week Formby supplied — only they don’t make very comfortable reading for those elements of the PLP who have been determined to elevate the existence of some incidents into a party crisis and proof of “institutional antisemitism.”
On the other side of the arguments there are some who wrongly and unhelpfully dismiss all accusations of anti-semitism against Labour, but most of those responding from the left, including the Jewish left, have calmly said that a problem does exist in pockets but it has been artificially exaggerated, that many allegations lack substance, and it is doubtful they are all emanating from Labour Party members.
We have now been vindicated by the facts: 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 of those complaints, and we can speculate that those accusations were either wildly exaggerated or vexatious.
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.
The PLP agitators on this felt this was much too small a number of expulsions but on the basis of the Chakrabarti recommendations that expulsion should be a last rather than first resort, and that education should be the preferred response — to me that is a positive outcome.
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. They knew they would be found out and they jumped before being pushed out.
The other statistic relates to Margaret Hodge — who has been leading a crusade on this matter. She had personally submitted 200 of the complaints, but these were not 200 separate individuals.
They concerned 111 people, and 91 of them — 91 out of 111 — turned out not to be members of the Labour Party.
So, the 20 Labour Party members with a case to answer notwithstanding, Hodge was one of those most responsible for false and exaggerated claims against the Labour Party over antisemitism. Now, why am I not surprised?