Labour U-Turn On Readmission of Derby North MP

28 June 2019, 18:14 | Updated: 28 June 2019, 18:16

Chris Williamson 2

The whip has been removed from Derby North Labour MP Chris Williamson over allegations of anti-Semitism.

The move comes amid widespread anger after the Derby North MP, a staunch supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, was readmitted to the party following a formal warning by an anti-Semitism panel on Wednesday.

PA understands the whip was automatically restored on Wednesday, but has now been removed again as a result of a fresh investigation being launched, pending a decision by the National Executive Committee (NEC).

A Labour Party source said: "Jennie Formby has written to the NEC to inform them that the issues raised in Keith Vaz's email will be on the agenda for the NEC disputes committee's next meeting.

"Under the party's rule book, the general secretary and the leader of the party cannot overturn decisions made by NEC panels, which are advised by independent barristers. Only the NEC has the power to do so.

"Subsequently, the whip is not restored as the decision is still pending."

More than 60 MPs have signed a motion calling for a vote in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) on withdrawing the whip from Mr Williamson for 12 months for bringing the party into disrepute.

He was originally suspended in February after video emerged of him saying the party had been "too apologetic" in the face of criticism of its handling of anti-Semitism complaints.

The latest move to have him suspended from the PLP came after Mr Corbyn ignored calls, led by deputy leader Tom Watson, to step in and withdraw the whip himself.

The motion calls for the case to be referred to the parliamentary committee - the influential backbench body which meets weekly with Mr Corbyn - at its next meeting on Wednesday.

If approved, under standing orders, it would then go a vote of the full PLP at Westminster.

The motion says: "Due to the exceptional circumstances in this case we are of the view that the allegation of bringing the Labour Party into disrepute made against Chris Williamson warrants an investigation by the parliamentary committee under this standing order and full consideration given to a recommendation of removal of the whip to the PLP.

"We therefore seek to ask the PLP to take action to suspend the whip from Chris Williamson for a period of a year."

Signatories to the motion include Yvette Cooper, Dame Margaret Hodge, Wes Streeting, David Lammy and Diana Johnson.

Under party rules, Mr Williamson would be entitled to make representations to the parliamentary committee before his case is referred to the PLP.

Meanwhile another senior figure, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer, said he was "deeply concerned" at the decision to readmit Mr Williamson and called for it to be overturned by the ruling National Executive Committee.

He tweeted that the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which is currently investigating the party for alleged anti-Semitism, should also be invited to look at the "specifics of the case".

The pressure on Mr Corbyn to take action himself meanwhile intensified after a key ally of the Labour leader said the MP "has to go".

Jon Lansman, the founder of the grassroots Momentum group, said Mr Williamson had not shown "one iota of contrition" after saying the party had been "too apologetic" in the face of criticism of the way it dealt with anti-Semitism within its ranks.

He accused Mr Williamson of showing "contempt" for the panel's ruling after he tweeted that he had received an "avalanche" of support from grassroots members.

In response, Mr Lansman tweeted: "This tweet reveals not one iota of contrition nor any acknowledgement of wrongdoing following a further formal warning from the Labour Party for behaviour grossly detrimental to the party. Such contempt for the party's verdict! He has to go!"

A Labour source insisted that Mr Corbyn was not involved in the party's disciplinary processes or individual cases.

"It would be wholly inappropriate for a leader to pick and choose cases in the way that is being demanded," the source said.

"Several of the MPs who have signed (Mr Watson's statement) have in the past argued against political interference."