Chris Williamson

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Person.png Chris Williamson   Powerbase TwitterRdf-icon.png
Chris Williamson.jpg
Born1956-09-16
Derby, England
NationalityBritish
Alma materLeicester Polytechnic
SpouseMaggie Amsbury
PartyLabour

Employment.png Member of Parliament for Derby North

In office
8 June 2017 - Present

Christopher Williamson (born 16 September 1956) is a Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament for Derby North since the 8 June 2017 General Election,[1] having served previously for the same seat from 2010 until 2015.[2] He was Shadow Minister for Fire and Emergency Services from July 2017 to January 2018.[3]

Chris Williamson is a member of Labour Against the Witchhunt (LAW) which maintains the majority of allegations of antisemitism against party members are part of a “smear campaign”.[4] On 26 February 2019, Williamson was criticised for booking a room at the House of Commons for the screening of the documentary WitchHunt which investigates the weaponising of antisemitism to attack Jeremy Corbyn and the anti-zionist left.[5]

On 27 February 2019, Williamson was suspended from the Labour Party for comments about antisemitism within Labour.[6] A petition calling for his reinstatement was started on 28 February 2019.[7]

Suspending Williamson is 'madness'

In the evening of 27 February 2019, Labour suspended Chris Williamson pending an investigation after he had said that the party had been “too apologetic” over claims of anti-semitism.

At lunchtime, a Labour spokesman said the Derby North MP had become the subject to an investigation because of “a pattern of behaviour” but had not been suspended.

Mr Williamson offered an apology but hours later the leftwinger was suspended following pressure from Labour figures such as deputy leader Tom Watson and former leader Ed Miliband.

A Labour spokesperson claimed Mr Williamson had made comments that were “deeply offensive and inappropriate” and of “downplaying the problem of anti-semitism.”

The row blew up after video footage emerged of the MP addressing a Momentum meeting in Sheffield in the wake of last week’s resignation of eight Labour MPs to join The Independent Group.

It shows him receiving an applause as he said that the party had “given too much ground” to its critics who had “demonised it as a racist, bigoted party.”

Condemning the suspension, Jewish Voice for Labour representative Mike Cushman said:

“This is madness, he’s suspended for saying the party is doing much to combat anti-semitism and should stop apologising, and it’s the parties that have done nothing that have something to answer for.”

Mr Williamson said in his apology:

“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.”

Morning Star editor Ben Chacko denounced the suspension:

“The left needs to understand that unless we hang together we will hang separately. Chris Williamson is an outstanding Labour MP. The party and movement will be the poorer if MPs who couldn’t care less whether their party is elected succeed in turfing him out.”

Since the footage came to light, a screening of a documentary film called "WitchHunt", which makers say explores the background to accusations of anti-semitism in Labour Party, has been cancelled. The film by Jon Pullman, whicht has been praised by leading Jewish film-makers Mike Leigh and Peter Kosminsky, was due to be screened in the House of Commons on Monday 4 March 2019 with Mr Williamson’s assistance.[8]

Early life and career

Born in Derby, he attended the St John Fisher Primary School in Alvaston; Castle Donington High School, and St Thomas More High School, Allenton before Leicester Polytechnic (now De Montfort University) where he obtained a Qualifications for Professional Social Work (CQSW) in 1985.

He worked as a mechanical engineering apprentice for a year from 1972 onwards, then worked as a bricklayer for six years. He was a social worker in Derby between 1983-1986 before working as a welfare rights officer. He has been a vegan since the 1970s.[9]

Williamson joined the Labour Party in 1976 and became a councillor in 1991, then became Leader of the Labour Group on Derby City Council. And served as Leader of Derby City Council on two separate occasions. He is a member of the League Against Cruel Sports and is vice chair of the Local Government Anti Poverty Forum.[10]

Parliamentary career

First term (2010–15)

Williamson was the second newly elected MP of the 2010 intake to make his maiden speech in the House of Commons, speaking in response to the Queen's Speech on 25 May 2010.

In October 2010, he became Shadow Fire and Emergency Services Minister within the Shadow Communities and Local Government team after serving just four months as an MP but after the reshuffle of the party in 2013; his role as Shadow Minister was replaced by Lyn Brown.[11]

He served as a member of the Communities and Local Government Committee between July and November 2010 and November 2013 to March 2015.[12]

He was one of 16 signatories of an open letter to Ed Miliband in January 2015 calling on the party to commit to oppose further austerity, take rail franchises back into public ownership and strengthen collective bargaining arrangements.[13]

At the 2015 General Election, Williamson lost the Derby North seat to Amanda Solloway of the Conservative Party by 41 votes.

Second term (2017–present)

Chris Williamson, a staunch ally of the Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, has been described as the "most pro-Jeremy Corbyn candidate in England’s most marginal constituency".[14] Corbyn has described Williamson as a "very great friend", saying that his defeat at the 2015 general election was "a shock" and "the worst result of that night".[15] Williamson expressed that his campaign in Derby North would be a "test case for Corbynism".[16] and Corbyn came to campaign for Williamson on 6 May 2017 during the 2017 snap General Election campaign.

Williamson regained his former seat from Amanda Solloway with a majority of 2,015 votes. On 3 July 2017, Williamson was appointed as Shadow Fire and Emergency Services Minister within the Shadow Home Office team.[17][18]

Williamson returned in August 2017 to Corbyn's suggestion, during his first leadership campaign, for women-only train carriages to reduce sexual assaults; reported incidents have doubled since 2012.[19] Labour anti-Corbyn colleagues Jess Phillips and Stella Creasy were critical of the idea.[20] The Women's Equality Party also criticised his comments.[21]

In an interview with Rowena Mason of The Guardian in late August 2017, Williamson said allegations about the existence of antisemitism within the Labour Party and criticism of Corbyn's approach to the situation in Venezuela were "proxy wars and bullshit". According to Williamson: “I’m not saying it never ever happens but it is a really dirty, lowdown trick, particularly the antisemitism smears. Many people in the Jewish community are appalled by what they see as the weaponisation of antisemitism for political ends".[22] Marie van der Zyl, the Board of Deputies of British Jews vice-president said he should "show solidarity with those suffering racism within his own party rather than blaming the victims". Williamson later described antisemitism as being "utterly repugnant and a scourge on society, which is why I stand in absolute solidarity with anyone who is subjected to antisemitic abuse".[23] In a later September article in Tribune magazine he wrote that his critics "accusations of anti-Semitism were positively sinister" and "highly offensive and hurtful" in suggesting "that I was an anti-Semite myself, yet I have fought racism all my adult life".[24]

Complaint to the BBC

On 14 December 2014, Shadow Fire and Emergency Services Minister, Chris Williamson, complained of a "media blackout" when he spoke to BBC Daily Politics presenter Jo Coburn, and former Labour MP Gisela Stuart, about the lack of coverage of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn winning the MacBride Peace Prize.

Pooh-poohing Williamson's complaint, Jo Coburn suggested that it was for the Labour Party – not the media – to publicise such events.[25]

Making Venezuela's "economy scream"

On 4 February 2019, Chris Williamson tweeted:

"The US-based Council on Foreign Relations says US sanctions against Venezuela 'will cripple the economy…[and] make the economy scream'. Astonishingly, some British MPs are actually supporting this! They should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves."[26]

Having criticised Theresa May's government's decision to recognise Juan Guaidó as "a democratic outrage", Williamson was interviewed the same day by Jon Snow on Channel 4 News.[27] Snow spent the interview disregarding any progressive credentials he may have had, speaking strongly in support of the Trump-led regime-change efforts in Venezuela, saying:

"Your case is supported by Russia, China – you would hardly want to go to the wire on trying to defend them on human rights or anything else… You and Mr Corbyn are in a very nasty corner now."

But Williamson called him out on it, insisting:

"The media, including Channel 4… has been a bit one-eyed in its reportage of what’s happened in Venezuela. I’ve seen footage of government supporters who have been beaten to death, set on fire, been decapitated. And these things need to be called out as well. And this has been supported tacitly by the United States, who are financing this kind of abuse."

Along with other EU countries, Britain’s Conservative-led government joined the US and Canada and recognised Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s president on 4 February. Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt cited a lack of “credible presidential elections” to justify the move. But on Channel 4, Williamson also challenged the false claim that Venezuelan elections were not legitimate:

"The government’s decision to recognise Juan Guaido is a democratic outrage. The truth is he’s never been elected as president of the National Assembly… The four groups who are actually in control in the National Assembly take it in turns… He didn’t stand against President Maduro in last year’s election. And contrary to your previous contributor, who alleged that the elections were rigged, I’ve spoken to election observers on the ground and there were observers from 86 countries who say that that simply isn’t true."

With a low turnout of just under half the eligible voters, Maduro won 68% of the vote in May 2018. The closest runner-up was Henri Falcón with 21%. Other right-wing opposition leaders such as Guaidó boycotted the election (even though they could have won if they’d united). Instead, they apparently opted to try and force the collapse of Maduro’s government through a combination of US sanctions, protests, and propaganda.

Williamson also gave his view on the way forward, saying:

"The United Kingdom, rather than behaving like Donald Trump’s poodle, should be calling on him to withdraw the sanctions and to use their good offices to bring the different factions around the table and reach an amicable solution."[28]

16 September 1956| 

Related Documents

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Labour expulsion hearing set for anti-Zionist Jackie WalkerArticle5 February 2019Asa WinstanleyWitchHunt documentary: “We are determined to get it out whatever the threats,” Jackie Walker vows
Document:The plot to keep Corbyn out of powerblog post3 July 2019Jonathan CookThe weaponisation of anti-semitism against Corbyn has become so normal that, even while I was writing this post, a new nadir was reached. Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary who hopes to defeat Boris Johnson in the upcoming Tory leadership race, as good as accused Corbyn of being a new Hitler, a man who as prime minister might allow Jews to be exterminated, just as occurred in the Nazi death camps.
Document:The witchfinders are now ready to burn CorbynBlog post28 February 2019Jonathan CookJeremy Corbyn’s allies are being picked off one by one, from grassroots activists like Jackie Walker and Marc Wadsworth to higher-placed supporters like Chris Williamson and Seumas Milne. Soon Corbyn will stand alone, exposed before the inquisition that has been prepared for him.
Document:We condemn the suspension of Jo Bird and the appointment of Lord FalconerArticle4 March 2019As Ken Loach said: “If it looks like a witch hunt and behaves like a witch hunt – it may well be just that. This is intolerable and must end now.”


References

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