Catherine West MP
Catherine West MP

My statement on Chris Williamson MP

I’ve received a number of emails from constituents about disciplinary matters regarding the suspended MP Mr Chris Williamson.  This matter was debated at the Parliamentary Labour Party Meeting on Monday evening which I attended.  It is exasperating that this issue is still not sorted.

Mr Williamson remains suspended as a Labour MP pending a review of his membership.  His comments suggesting the party had “given too much ground, we’ve been too apologetic” showed a complete lack of awareness of the impact of anti-Semitism on the Jewish community and the poor handling of complaints regarding anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

I backed the decision to suspend Mr Williamson when his comments first came to light and I believe it is right that he remains suspended.

Last week a letter was circulated for MPs to sign regarding the matter.  I was out of the country at the time in my role on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, but I’ve since been asked if I would retrospectively sign it.  I’ve made the decision not to for two reasons.  Firstly, because the situation has moved on since the letter was drafted and Mr Williamson is once more suspended from the party.  Secondly, because whilst I echo the sentiments about the depth and breadth of hurt and anger felt and the need for changes to the disciplinary process, I am uncomfortable at the suggestion that the Leader should personally overturn individual decisions as I fear that would create a worrying precedent.

What I want to see is a truly independent process, accountable, open to scrutiny and free of political interference.  This shouldn’t just be for cases of anti-Semitism, it should also cover sexual harassment complaints and allegations of bullying.  When the EHRC publishes a report of their findings, I hope they will provide much-needed guidance for Labour and all political parties on how to deal with disciplinary matters.

I have consistently raised the concerns of the Jewish community with the party, including writing to the General Secretary, co-ordinating an official submission to the inquiry into anti-Semitism and hosting a meeting with the parliamentary NEC rep and Jewish community leaders.  I have worked tirelessly to promote understanding in my constituency of the important contribution of the Jewish community and have wholeheartedly supported important civic events including the annual Civic Service, Holocaust Memorial Day, Chanukah and the community Menorah lighting in Crouch End.

It is very clear that Labour has to do more and it has to do it quickly.  To hear Jewish members and previous supporters speak of their hurt and anger and how they can no longer support the party is a matter of deep shame.  Labour cannot be an anti-racist movement unless we have zero tolerance for anti-Semitism.  That is what I will keep pushing for.

Catherine West
Labour MP for Hornsey & Wood Green


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