Sheffield Hallam Labour candidate condemns MP’s anti-Semitism remarks despite calls to reinstate him
Labour’s candidate for Sheffield Hallam has condemned anti-Semitism remarks made by suspended MP after 40 constituency party members called to reinstate him.
Councillor Olivia Blake said she ‘strongly disagrees’ with the comments made by Chris Williamson, MP for Derby North and key ally of Jeremy Corbyn.
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.
Coun Blake said: “One case of antisemitism in the Labour party is one too many and the full force of our disciplinary process should be brought to bear on anyone found guilty of it. They have no place in our party.
“It would not be right to comment on a case under investigation but it is clear from what the party has said that this is about more than what was said at the meeting in Sheffield and involves a pattern of behaviour and a series other incidents.
“I fully support the work of Jeremy Corbyn and the general secretary to rid our party of antisemitism.
“CLPs are free to discuss issues relating to the party and beyond and rightly so. I understand Hallam members held a constructive and thoughtful discussion and restated their commitment to ridding the Labour party of antisemitism, which is welcome.”
It comes after Sheffield Hallam Labour members voted 40-1, out of a membership of around 2,000, in support of a motion to reinstate him. Coun Blake was not present at the meeting as she was campaigning.
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.”
It has since caused backlash on Twitter. Oliver Coppland, former Labour candidate for Sheffield Hallam who is also Jewish, said he was ‘deeply saddened’ by it and Laura Gordon, Liberal Democrat candidate for the constituency said she was ‘absolutely appalled’ by members who supported 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.
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."