Lib Dem Sheffield Hallam candidate condemns support for suspended Labour MP
Liberal Democrat candidate for Sheffield Hallam has condemned support for an MP who was suspended over anti-Semitism remarks.
Laura Gordon said she was ‘absolutely appalled’ by Sheffield Hallam Labour party members who voted in favour of a motion to reinstate Chris Williamson.
Mr Williamson was suspended after being filmed at a Momentum meeting saying Labour were ‘too apologetic’ in its response to complaints of anti-Semitism and was being ‘demonised as a racist party’. In the video people can be seen clapping and cheering in support of his comments.
Ms Gordon said: “I’m completely appalled. We have our political differences but there should be things we agree on and racism is one of those things that should not be up for debate.
“What I’m most appalled at is not necessarily the remarks but the way everyone clapped and applauded it. Not one person stood up and said ‘there is something wrong about this’. Even since the meeting people have kept their heads down and not condemned it.”
Mr Williamson was given a ‘notice of investigation for a pattern of behaviour’ but a decision was later taken by Ms Formby to suspend him. He said at the time he would be working to clear his name.
At a Sheffield Hallam Constituency Party meeting, members voted 40 to one, out of a membership of around 2,000, to support a motion to reinstate him.
In the motion, which they are now sending to Jenny Formby, general secretary, they said: “The allegation that Chris is downplaying anti-Semitism is totally unfounded. His comments, made at a Momentum meeting in Sheffield, were taken out of context in a deliberate attempt to ruin both the reputation of Chris Williamson MP and Jeremy Corbyn.”
This caused backlash on Twitter. Oliver Coppard, former Labour candidate for Sheffield Hallam who is also Jewish, said he was ‘deeply saddened’ by it and Steve Lapsey, Labour NCC candidate, called it ‘ridiculous and scary’.
Liz Winders, chair of Sheffield Hallam CLP, said: “In the discussion of the motion last night members very clearly opposed and condemned antisemitism by any Labour Party members no matter how few they are.
“They also supported the general secretary, Jenny Formby, for the vigorous way she is addressing complaints of antisemitism in the Labour Party.
“The Labour Party is a democratic party and members are free to discuss issues and pass motions some of which will be seen as controversial. The motion can’t be taken to reflect the views of anyone else in the Labour Party including Jeremy Corbyn and Olivia Blake.”
A Labour Party spokesperson said: “We completely reject claims of institutional antisemitism. Antisemitism complaints received since April 2018 relate to about 0.1% of our membership, but one antisemite in our party is one too many. We are determined to tackle antisemitism and root it out of our Party once and for all."