Chris Williamson loses legal bid over Labour party suspension

Court says party acted ‘in good faith’ in case of MP suspended in row over antisemitism

Chris Williamson, the Derby North MP, has lost a high court bid to be reinstated in the Labour party after he was suspended in a row over antisemitism.

A ruling released on Thursday said the party acted “in good faith” by launching an investigation into claims by Williamson that loyal members accused of antisemitism were being demonised for political reasons.

The ruling means the one-time ally of Jeremy Corbyn must still face an internal inquiry and could struggle to stand as an MP for the party were a general election called this year. Union sources said they would trigger a selection battle against Williamson even if he were subsequently cleared.

Williamson was suspended in February after video footage showed him telling a meeting of Momentum that Labour’s reaction to antisemitism allegations had led to the party being “demonised” and claiming he had celebrated the resignation of the MP Joan Ryan, who quit Labour in protest over the handling of antisemitism complaints.

He was readmitted to the party and issued with a formal warning after a hearing of a national executive committee (NEC) antisemitism panel in June – prompting an outcry from MPs, peers and Jewish groups.

Jon Lansman, the founder of Momentum, said at the time that Williamson had not shown “one iota of contrition” after saying the party had been “too apologetic” in the face of criticism of how it dealt with antisemitism within its ranks. Almost 70 Labour staff members wrote to express their anger at Williamson’s readmission.

Days later, he was suspended again after a second panel reviewed the decision to reinstate him and found it “cannot safely stand”.

Following fresh claims that he undermined the party’s ability to campaign against antisemitism by publicly characterising the disciplinary processes against racism as “politically motivated and/or not genuine”, Labour then imposed a separate additional suspension in September.

The party also alleged he had publicly legitimised or endorsed misconduct of former members.

Williamson’s lawyers argued that his treatment had been “manifestly unfair” and asked the court to declare his suspension from the party void.

Ruling on Thursday, Justice Pepperall said Labour’s decision in July to suspend Williamson was unlawful because the party failed to follow the rules and questioned the party’s evidence that claimed Keith Vaz was unfit to be involved in the judgment.

The Leicester East MP had sat on the three-member panel that agreed to let Williamson back into the party in June and had called for the decision to suspend him again shortly afterwards to be reviewed.

However, the judge found there was “nothing in the new allegations, the timing of the letter of 3 September or the decision to suspend that entitles me to take the view upon the papers that the Labour party is acting either unfairly or other than in good faith”.

He added: “While the Labour party is no longer able lawfully to pursue the original disciplinary case against Mr Williamson, that does not afford him immunity from any subsequent disciplinary action.”

Williamson tweeted after the ruling: “The battle is won. The war rages on. The high court has today judged that the Labour party acted unlawfully in re-suspending me and ‘that there was no proper reason’ for doing so. I’m glad the ‘re-suspension’ has been quashed. However, I’m currently suspended.”

A Labour party spokesperson said: “The court has upheld Chris Williamson’s suspension from the party and has said his disciplinary case must run its course.”


Rajeev Syal

The GuardianTramp

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