Court overturns Labour “re-suspension” of left-wing MP

Chris Williamson with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during 2017’s general election.

Hannah McKay Reuters

The High Court in London has ruled that the Labour Party’s June “re-suspension” of one of its lawmakers was illegal.

Chris Williamson has been the only MP to publicly challenge the Labour anti-Semitism smear campaign.

But Williamson remains suspended because of new charges party bureaucrats slapped on him in early September, the week before his court hearing to challenge the earlier suspension.

The judge, Edward Pepperall, did not overturn the new suspension.

You can read the ruling in full below.

“The battle is won. The war rages on,” Williamson said after the verdict on Thursday.

“It’s clear that my ‘re-suspension’ was motivated by media hysteria,” the lawmaker said.

Williamson called Labour’s new case against him “a series of preposterous allegations that I answered fully and swiftly.”

Williamson was first suspended in February, days after booking a room in Parliament to screen the documentary, WitchHunt.

That initial suspension was overturned on 26 June by members of Labour’s ruling national executive.

But days later, after a right-wing backlash, he was “re-suspended.” It is this 28 June re-suspension that the court ruled unlawful.

After the ruling, Williamson thanked his supporters, many of whom had backed his legal action through a crowdfunding campaign.

He called the decision a “damning indictment of our party’s internal disciplinary procedures, which require a total overhaul – towards a fairer, more independent and more democratic system. My suspension must now be lifted.”

The WitchHunt documentary looks at the smear campaign against Labour members over the last four years.

It has often involved fabricated allegations of anti-Semitism.

Williamson had been the only MP to openly challenge this campaign, saying in a 2017 interview that there have been “lies and dirty tricks” around the “anti-Semitism smears.”

Since then, he has been a prime target of the same witch hunt. Right-wing Labour MPs and pro-Israel lobby groups continuously call for him to be fired as a Labour MP.

Right-wing Labour lawmakers also hate Williamson’s campaign calling for fully democratic selection of Labour candidates.

With the tacit support of party leader Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s bureaucracy finally bowed to demands for him to go in February.

When he was first suspended, there was immense pressure from the right and pro-Israel groups for Williamson to be dimissed as a Labour MP – to “lose the whip” in parliamentary jargon.

He remained an MP after the party suspended him, but he cannot represent Labour.

This means that unless his suspension is lifted once and for all, he will no longer be Labour’s candidate at the next election – expected within months.

This would make it very difficult for him to retain his seat.

This means that even if the charges against him are eventually dismissed, Williamson’s enemies could still force him out of Parliament simply by dragging out the disciplinary process through the next election.

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Clearly the press has spun this as a loss due to the September suspension standing, though clearly this is a win based on why the case was originally brought ie the second resuspension being not lawful 'Labour Party is no longer able lawfully to pursue the original disciplinary case against Mr Williamson'. I have heard but not seen evidence that cost were awarded against the Labour party, is this the case, as if such it clearly shows a win that the un nuanced reader can understand.

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This is corrupt. Labour should suspend those involved in this conspiracy and reinstate Chris. These right wingers would clearly rather lose the next election than allow Labour to return to its working class roots. They share the blame for the suffering of ordinary people under this appallingly cruel and vindictive Tory administration. Hope Karma kicks their collective butts.

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For supporting Palestinian rights and publicly defending expelled members, Chris Williamson was suspended from the Labour Party. That suspension was soon overturned by the party itself. When the reversal was announced, pro-Israel elements howled for his re-suspension, and this demand was acceded to almost immediately by the same party that had just exonerated him- and without new "charges" being presented. Then, when it became clear that Williamson intended to fight the second suspension, and that he was bound to win in a court of law because proper procedures had not been followed, the party leaders slapped a third suspension on him- while the second was still in effect! He found himself doubly suspended. Has this ever happened to anyone else? And what does it mean, to be given the same sentence at the same time, twice for the same act? This travesty must stop. While the judge has ruled that the third suspension is without flaw, it will be very hard to sell this position to a membership who have witnessed the hijacking of these procedures in open defiance of natural justice. The Labour membership does not support the leadership in this matter, and it's about time that the leadership began to pay heed to the rank and file.

This issue isn't about Chris Williamson or any other individual. The British Labour Party is not an Israeli party. It's not a Zionist party. And the Israel Lobby should be firmly directed where to take their stand- outside, in the lobby, not inside, in the party.

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The bit I can't quite get my head round is the judge ruling that 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.”

Surely the judge can't actually be saying that the new allegations brought against Chris just a week before the court case and the decision to suspend him (again!) were done fairly and in good faith, when just about everyone on the planet can see quite clearly that it was a mega cynical ploy done in ultra bad faith. So please someone, tell me that I've got it wrong and he is, in effect saying something else - eg that he can't make a ruling on whether it was done fairly and in good faith because of whatever.

Anyway, I dare say the Blairite psychopaths behind this whole ploy had it all worked out what they were going to do within days of Chris announcing that he was going to take the party to court, and I bet that amongst themselves they can't stop laughing their heads off, as no doubt they were in the weeks and months beforehand at the prospect of doing it!

The thing is that unless these new allegations pertain to things that Chris supposedly said or did in the past few weeks, why would you wait until a week before the court case to notify him. Would be good if someone leaked the allegations to a newspaper (which the rest of the MSM would then cover) so that we can see for ourselves what they were/are AND just how preposterous (as Chris said) they are, and also WHEN they happened. I imagine that most people, like myself, have assumed that it was LP insiders who compiled the new raft of allegations, but it would be good to know who it was if it wasn't.

What complete and utterly despicable creatures these people are putting decent, honest and totally innocent folk through all of this, including Jeremy of course. It's hard to believe they are actually human!

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Am not a lawyer but I think that all the Judge is saying in relation to the new charges is that he cannot determine that the new charges are not unfair; which is different from a positive statement that they are fair. He is just allowing the normal procedures to take place. He does note that the new charges refer to incidents that either happened or were only brought to the attention of the Labour Party post the first charges. Saying that, there is no doubt in my mind that these additional charges are just the next step in the vendetta against Williamson - but as far as I can see, the Judge does not think it appropriate for the Court to pre-empt the Labour Party processes. The judgement given neither vindicates nor condemns Williamson re the initial charges; it merely states that the Labour Party did not adhere to its own internal processes in overruling the original lifting of the suspension.

As Winstanley notes, the new suspension following the new charges effectively make it unlikely that Williamson can stand as a Labour candidate at the next election. And what are these new charges of bringing the Party into disrepute? Namely that Williamson referred a member to a YouTube critical of Hodge; supported or endorsed members suspended or expelled and undermined the Party's ability to counter anti-Semitism. This is all a bit rich given that the records of NEC procedures to expel or suspend members, including MPs are kept confidential. If the NEC refuse to allow others into their little secrets, it can hardly be too outraged if those not in the know question their decisions. Records can be redacted to protect privacy etc but the lack of transparency is outrageous.

Good luck to Chris - but part of the fight should now include measures for the rank and file to groom a suitable candidate to replace him if necessary and/or for Chris to stand as an independent. Labour internal processes are a shameless sham.

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Where is the coverage on MSM? Not a peep from Public Service Broadcasting channels.

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Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada. He lives in London. Biography here.