Tom Watson is only shadow cabinet member to sign Chris Williamson letter
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Tom Watson is only shadow cabinet member to sign Chris Williamson letter

Labour's Deputy Leader joined over 100 party politicians in urging Jeremy Corbyn to intervene on the decision to readmit the controversial Derby North MP

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson. Photo credit: Nick Ansell/PA Wire
Labour deputy leader Tom Watson. Photo credit: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

Tom Watson is the only member of the shadow cabinet to have signed a letter demanding Jeremy Corbyn withdraw the whip from Chris Williamson.

The deputy leader and 116 of the party’s MPs and peers urged Corbyn to “show leadership” and overturn the decision to readmit the Derby North MP into the party with a formal warning.

The letter, signed by Lord Levy, Ruth Smeeth, Louise Ellman, Margaret Hodge and Lord Dubs, describes the decision as “inappropriate, offensive and reputationally” and claims the disciplinary process remains mired by the “appearance of political interference”.

“Ultimately, it is for Jeremy Corbyn to decide whether Chris Williamson retains the Labour whip,” the letter reads. “He must remove it immediately if we are to stand any hope of persuading anyone that the Labour Party is taking antisemitism seriously.”

Corbyn insisted he “wasn’t involved in the decision at all. It was an independent panel set up through the national executive. They examined the case and decided to admit him back in, albeit with a reprimand.”

Since his statement, MPs have called for him to take action, with Jess Phillips, who signed the letter, telling the BBC’s Today Programme: “This is a matter of principle about racism, about the Labour Party being the party of equality, the party that is anti-racist. That reputation is slipping away from us every day.”

Meanwhile Shadow Equalities Minister Dawn Butler was among several members of cabinet challenged on the decision while making media rounds. Speaking to Sky News, she admitted she didn’t “personally agree” with the decision but suggested Corbyn should not intervene in the case.

“I think that Jeremy should make a statement in terms of what he thinks about the situation but asking him to get involved is in our breach of our procedures,” she said.

Shadow Attorney General Baroness Shami Chakrabarti, who chaired a review into antisemitism in the party in 2016, refused to clarify her position. Speaking to BBC Radio Lincolnshire during a visit to Lincoln, she said: “If Magna Carta is still worth anything at all, it’s got to be about due process, which means I didn’t see hear the evidence, or the arguments, or the mitigation or whatever, there was  a panel that was charged with doing that and I have to really button my lip and respect the process.”

Shami Chakrabarti

Meanwhile Shadow Health Secretary John Healey told the Today Programme: “It does seem to be clear, and it has always been clear to me talking with Jeremy about this, that he is really concerned, and has always been really concerned that not enough is being done.”

The decision to readmit Williamson into the party has caused a backlash, with critics pointing to his record on antisemitism, including his backing a petition in support for the musician Gilad Atzmon, who has been accused of Shoah denial, and his campaign for the reinstatement of Labour activist Marc Wadsworth.

Among those in the Jewish community to express their concern, Simon Johnson, from the Jewish Leadership Council, claimed Williamson has shown no remorse and will offend again.

“This decision beggars belief. The lack of transparency and clarity around the process of why Mr Williamson has had his suspension lifted lends credence as to why the EHRC is investigating whether the Labour Party discriminates against Jewish people,” he added.

Similarly, Board of Deputies Vice President Amanda Bowman described the announcement as an “utter disgrace” and “yet more damning evidence for the EHRC’s inquiry into antisemitism in the Labour Party.”

 

Read list of Labour politicians to have signed the letter:

  1. Tom Watson
  2. Holly Lynch
  3. Stella Creasy
  4. Anna Turley
  5. Rosie Duffield
  6. Louise Ellman
  7. Ruth Smeeth
  8. Jenny Chapman
  9. Roberta BlackmanWoods
  10. Stephen Doughty
  11. Karin Smyth
  12. Baroness Thornton
  13. Lord McNicol
  14. Baroness Morgan of Huyton
  15. Lord Turnberg
  16. Gloria De Piero
  17. Baroness Royall of Blaisdon
  18. Yvette Cooper
  19. Baroness Massey of Darwen
  20. Baroness Kingsmill
  21. Kate Green
  22. Ruth Cadbury
  23. Owen Smith
  24. Seema Malhotra
  25. Liz Kendall
  26. Chris Matheson
  27. Margaret Hodge
  28. Stephen Kinnock
  29. Jeff Smith
  30. Chris Bryant
  31. Wes Streeting
  32. Julie Elliott
  33. Lord Levy
  34. Lord Knight of Weymouth
  35. Lord Harris of Haringey
  36. Ali McGovern
  37. James Frith
  38. Lucy Powell
  39. Bridget Phillipson
  40. Pat McFadden
  41. Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall
  42. Lord Triesman
  43. Darren Jones
  44. Alex Sobel
  45. Karen Buck
  46. Neil Coyle
  47. Lord Mandelson
  48. Anna McMorrin
  49. Chi Onwurah
  50. Baroness Taylor of Bolton
  51. Lord Willie Bach
  52. Susan Elan Jones
  53. Ged Killen
  54. Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale
  55. Lord Livermore
  56. Kevin Barron
  57. Dan Jarvis
  58. Jess Phillips
  59. Martin Whitfield
  60. Rachel Reeves
  61. Peter Kyle
  62. Baroness Armstrong of Hilltop
  63. Baroness Maggie Jones
  64. Rushanara Ali
  65. Debbie Abrahams
  66. Daniel Zeichner
  67. Lilian Greenwood
  68. Graham Jones
  69. Toby Perkins
  70. Lord George Robertson
  71. Baroness Mary Goudie
  72. Barry Sheerman
  73. Tonia Antoniazzi
  74. Ian Lucas
  75. Lord George Foulkes
  76. Lord Wood of Anfield
  77. Cat McKinnell
  78. Ben Bradshaw
  79. Lord Haskell
  80. Lisa Nandy
  81. Gareth Thomas
  82. Lord Brooke
  83. Sharon Hodgson
  84. Ellie Reeves
  85. Lord Soley
  86. Madeleine Moon
  87. Mary Creagh
  88. Conor McGinn
  89. Lord Mendelsohn
  90. Janet Daby
  91. Baroness Corston
  92. Baroness Lister of Burtersett
  93. Baroness McDonagh
  94. Lord Dubs
  95. Ian Murray
  96. Tulip Siddiq
  97. Rosena Allin-Khan
  98. Diana Johnson
  99. Luke Pollard
  100. Phil Wilson
  101. Lord Woolmer of Leeds
  102. Siobhan McDonagh
  103. Lord Young of Norwood Green
  104. Baroness Crawley
  105. Steve Reed
  106. Lord Drayson
  107. Emma Reynolds
  108. Stephen Morgan
  109. Tracy Brabin
  110. Vernon Coaker
  111. Lord Kennedy of Southwark
  112. Baroness Liddell
  113. Baroness Andrews
  114. Baroness Prosser
  115. David Hanson
  116. Baroness Lister
  117. Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws
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