Britain’s main opposition Labour on Wednesday suspended one of its MPs, a close ally of leader Jeremy Corbyn after he claimed the party had been “too apologetic” over a tide of anti-Semitism allegations against it.
The move followed video footage emerging of lawmaker Chris Williamson telling a meeting of the left-wing Momentum activist group: “We have backed off far too much, we have given too much ground, we have been too apologetic.”
Williamson was speaking in Sheffield, northern England, in the wake of the resignations of nine Labour MPs last week, with many alleging a growing culture of anti-Jewish racism within the party under veteran socialist Corbyn’s watch.
He told the audience he had sung Kool and the Gang’s 1980 hit “Celebration” in response to their decisions to quit the party.
Labour said it has suspended Williamson pending an investigation and that his pattern of behaviour would be reviewed by staff.
“Chris Williamson is suspended from the party, and therefore the whip, pending investigation,” a Labour spokesman said.
Labour had already branded Williamson’s actions “completely unacceptable” after he booked a room in parliament for the screening of a film about an activist suspended over anti-Semitism complaints.
In a statement, Williamson said: “I deeply regret, and apologise for, my recent choice of words.
“I was trying to stress how much the party has done to tackle anti-Semitism.”
He told reporters: “I am going to clear my name within the party procedures. I think I’ve got a very strong case. There is no evidence against me in reality.”
Gideon Falter, chairman of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “This is a man who has baited Jews and befriended Labour activists suspended or expelled over anti-Semitism for years.
“It is outrageous that he is only being investigated now, and that it is only happening in response to a public outcry.”
Labour won 262 seats in parliament at the 2017 general election but is now down to 245 after a series of suspensions and resignations.
Image: Opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn reacts as Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May speaks after making a statement to the House of Commons in London on February 26, 2019.