British MP with Muslim Brotherhood ties readmitted into Labour Party

Chris Williamson had been suspended from the opposition party over accusations of anti-Semitism

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn stands with Chris Williamson during an election campaign event in 2017. Reuters
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn stands with Chris Williamson during an election campaign event in 2017. Reuters

A British MP, who gave a Muslim Brotherhood-linked organisation a platform to speak in parliament, has been readmitted to opposition party Labour, just four months after he was suspended over accusations of anti-Semitism.

Chris Williamson, the parliamentary representative for Derby North, said his party, which has been embroiled in a racism-scandal for the past two years, had been “too apologetic” over anti-Semitism back in February.

Mr Williamson was readmitted into the Labour Party with a formal warning after an investigation by a panel advised by an independent barrister, a party official said on Wednesday.

However, the decision to return to the party has caused outrage among some of his fellow MPs as well as Jewish groups in the UK.

Veteran Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge said it was “appalling, outrageous and unacceptable” that the 62-year-old had been let back into the party.

She told the BBC: “It’s a cynical move done on the day that we all got our forms to say ‘did we want to become Labour MPs again’, and having him suspended meant that he could not become a Labour MP.”

Other groups have suggested the decision to readmit Mr Williamson was because his constituency was a marginal seat and the MP standing as an independent in a potential snap election could split the Labour vote. Derby North was previously held by the Conservative Party and won back by Labour in the 2017 general election.

“It seems the decision to let him off is because he represents a marginal seat and there might be a snap election. It’s good to know that a party of anti-racists, led by an avowed anti-racist decides it’s OK to ignore anti-Jewish racism if there’s a vote to be won,” Chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement Mike Katz said.

Mr Williamson is a long-time ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has previously described proscribed group Hezbollah as “friends”. But Mr Williamson himself is no stranger to controversy.

Around the time of his own suspension, it was revealed that he had booked a room in parliament to screen a film titled Witch Hunt about former Labour member Jackie Walker, who was suspended from the party in 2016 amid anti-Semitic accusations. Ms Walker, who was officially expelled from Labour this year, has previously given extensive interviews to Doha-owned news station Al Jazeera about pro-Israel lobbying in the UK.

In 2018, Mr Williamson used his position as an MP to book a room on the parliamentary estate for a seminar run by the Arab Organisation for Human Rights (AOHR), a group with alleged ties to both Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The AOHR has been linked to the Cordoba Foundation, which was described by former prime minister David Cameron as a “front for the Muslim Brotherhood” in the UK and has been designated as a terrorist organisation by the UAE.

Mr Williamson has also courted criticism over comments made about the 2018 gas attack on Douma, Syria saying he was unsure whether Bashar Al Assad’s regime was responsible. This came after he endorsed conspiracy theorist Vanessa Beeley, the British blogger and vociferous supporter of Mr Assad. Ms Beeley described former Labour MP Jo Cox, who was murdered by a member of the far-right in 2016, as a “warmongering Blairite and Al Qaeda advocate”.

Mr Williamson took to Twitter on Thursday to say he had received an “avalanche of goodwill messages from grassroots members”, without mentioning outrage from his own colleagues at his readmission.

In an apparent reference at him being let back into the party, he wrote: “I can now focus on representing local people in Derby Nth and working for a Corbyn-led Labour govt to positively transform the lives of millions. Together anything is possible!”

Published: June 27, 2019 03:21 PM

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