Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 June 2019

Controversial UK MP suspended over anti-Semitic comments

Chris Williamson hosted events for campaigners linked to Muslim Brotherhood groups

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has repeatedly been accused of failing to clamp down on anti-semitism. Getty. . 
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has repeatedly been accused of failing to clamp down on anti-semitism. Getty. . 

A British opposition MP has been suspended after he said the Labour Party was “too apologetic” over anti-Semitism.

Speaking last week Labour MP Chris Williamson, who has used his status as an MP to grant a Muslim Brotherhood-linked group a platform in parliament, was caught on video making provocative statements. “We have backed off far too much, we have given too much ground, we have been too apologetic," he said.

Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson called for Mr Williamson to be suspended after the “deliberately inflammatory" comments, while another MP from the party said his comments were a “provocation too far”.

Mr Williamson later apologised for his comments saying he was “sorry for how I chose to express myself on this issue within our party”. Mr Watson described the apology as “long-winded” and “heavily caveated”.

On Tuesday is also emerged Mr Williamson had booked a room in parliament to show a film dealing with anti-Semitism alongside former Labour member Jackie Walker, who was suspended from the party in 2016 amid anti-Semitic accusations.

Mr Watson said it was “unacceptable” Mr Williamson had yet to cancel the event. The latter will be investigated over his comments.

The Labour Party, in particular its leader Jeremy Corbyn and Mr Williamson, have repeatedly been accused of rampant anti-Semitism.

Last week, nine Labour MPs left the party, many angered at its handling of anti-Semitism and Brexit. One of the those, Luciana Berger, tweeted: “This is what I have left behind. It’s country. Our country deserves so much better.”

"These comments are deeply offensive and inappropriate and fall below the standards we expect of MPs," a party spokesman told the BBC.

"Downplaying the problem of anti-Semitism makes it harder for us to tackle it. Chris Williamson should apologise immediately and withdraw his remarks."

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband said Mr Williamson was bringing the part “into disrepute over anti-Semitism”.

Mr Williamson has previously spoken at events held by the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in parliament, accused of maintaining close ties to Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood. In September 2017 the AOHR paid for the accommodation and flights of British politicians vising Qatar soon after the Gulf crisis began. Mr Williamson was not among them.

Investigations have exposed close links between AOHR and the Cordoba Foundation described in 2008 by former UK prime minister David Cameron as a “front for the Muslim Brotherhood”.

Mr Williamson is a staunch and vocal supporter of Mr Corbyn, the Labour leader, no stranger to controversy himself. In the past the Labour leader has described Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends”.

Speaking in parliament prime minister Theresa May said: “You can never be too unapologetic for anti-Semitism….. perhaps if the Labour leader actually wants to combat anti-Semitism, he should suspend” Mr Williamson.

The Labour MP has also been criticised for endorsing conspiracy theorist Vanessa Beeley, the British blogger and vociferous supporter of Syrian president Bashir Al Assad. Ms Beeley described former Labour MP Joe Cox, who was murdered by a member of the far-right in 2015, as a “warmongering Blairite and Al Qaeda advocate”.

Updated: February 27, 2019 09:24 PM

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