Sheffield Lib Dems condemn MP over anti-Semitism comments

Sheffield Liberal Democrats have condemned an MP who said Labour has been “too apologetic” and in responding to allegations about anti-Semitism.

Wednesday, 27th February 2019, 14:11 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th February 2019, 14:17 pm
Coun Shaffaq Mohammed

Speaking to a gathering of Momentum activists in Sheffield, Chris Williamson, Labour MP for Derby North and a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn, downplayed the issue of anti-Semitism in his party.

He claimed that Labour has been “too apologetic” and “backed off too much” in responding to allegations.

Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, leader of the opposition on Sheffield Council, said: “Last year a local senior Labour member was suspended for comparing the Job Centre to Auschwitz – yet Labour continue to deny that they have a problem with anti-Semitism.

“Key figures like Ed Milliband have already condemned Chris Williamson’s statements – it’s time for Sheffield Labour to do the same.”

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Laura Gordon, Lib Dem candidate for Sheffield Hallam, added: “MPs have been hounded out of the Labour party by anti-Semitic abuse, including death threats – yet Jeremy Corbyn continues to tolerate denial and anti-Semitism from his MPs. It just shows we can’t trust him to take the problem seriously.”

Mr Williamson suggested that Labour’s response to complaints of anti-Semitism had contributed to the party being “demonised”.

In a video clip, the MP told a meeting hosted by grassroots group Momentum that the party had “given too much ground”.

He said: “The party that has done more to stand up to racism is now being demonised as a racist, bigoted party.

“I have got to say I think our party’s response has been partly responsible for that because in my opinion… we have backed off on too much, we have given too much ground, we have been too apologetic.”

A national Labour Party spokesman said Mr Williamson’s actions had been “completely inappropriate” and fell below the standards it expects of MPs.

Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, has reported the matter to the Chief Whip and General Secretary.

Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Angela Smith was one of nine MPs who quit in protest at Mr Corbyn’s leadership last week, with his handling of anti-Semitism in the party among their grievances.