Chris Williamson, a Labour MP and a member of the Shadow Cabinet until January, has appeared as the warm-up act for disgraced Labour activist Jackie Walker, who has twice been suspended from the Labour Party over allegations of antisemitism.
Mr Williamson gave a lengthy speech before the performance of Ms Walker’s show, The Lynching, during which he said it was a “real pleasure and a privilege” to be sharing a platform with Ms Walker. He said that he would be “absolutely delighted” were she reinstated within the Party, and that both Ms Walker and Ken Livingstone had been unfairly accused of antisemitism, claiming: “We’ve got these ridiculous suspensions and expulsions from the Party…in the most grotesque and unfair way.”
The Lynching is Ms Walker’s attempt to put across her side of the story, explaining her views and justifying the comments that have led to her becoming such a controversial figure, such as her appalling lie that Jews were the “chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade”. The show’s tagline is “To oppose Israel is not to be antisemitic”, despite the fact that Israel is not mentioned in any of the comments that led to her being suspended by Labour twice.
The Labour MP for Peterborough, Fiona Onasanya, had also been billed as a support act, but she pulled out, tweeting: “I am vehemently opposed to antisemitism and was invited to speak out against racism, but will not be attending.”
Mr Williamson has previously said that Mr Walker’s suspension was “disgraceful”, and he recently attended another event with her and her fellow suspended Labour member Marc Wadsworth. Various social media posts suggest that they are close. In 2016 we called on the Labour Party to investigate his comments appearing to suggest that “brutal” Israelis were responsible for antisemitism in the UK, but instead he was selected to run for parliament and Jeremy Corbyn has appointed him to the Shadow Cabinet. He has since referredto allegations of antisemitism within the Labour Party as “proxy wars and bulls***”, saying the allegations were just a smear campaign against Mr Corbyn. Campaign Against Antisemitism called on Mr Williamson to apologise for his comments however to date we have not received a response. He has also endorsed an attack on a Labour Councillor who took action against antisemitism.
It is damning that in 2018 in Britain, Mr Williamson, who until recently was a minister in the Shadow Cabinet, has gone all of the way to Peterborough to declare that it is his “privilege” to share a platform with Ms Walker, who is currently suspended by the Labour Party over antisemitism allegations. The event is all the more disturbing for having been discussed with Mr Williamson within the antisemitic ‘Palestine Live’ Facebook group by its founder, a woman who repeatedly shares extreme antisemitic material. Mr Williamson’s boldness and lack of inhibition in publicly endorsing Ms Walker and his calls for Ken Livingstone to be reinstated are symptoms of the new phase in British politics, enabled by Jeremy Corbyn, in which a British MP may publicly applaud those figures like Ms Walker and Mr Livingstone without fear of punishment. The silence in the ranks of Labour MPs in response, and among the journalists and community leaders of this country who allow such a significant moment to pass with no more than a shrug is utterly chilling.