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Why we should rally in support behind Chris Williamson

The Derby North MP has paid the price for putting his head above the parapet and being the voice of all of us on the radical left – he now needs our solidarity, says JYOTI WILKINSON

APART from the birth of my daughter, the proudest day of my life was June 8 2017.

Standing on a genuinely transformative and progressive manifesto, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour had inflicted a shock and overturned the Tory government’s majority.  

This was polling day after Theresa May had called the snap general election, and also the day that we had returned Chris Williamson MP — who had declared himself the most pro-Corbyn candidate in Britain — to his rightful place representing Derby North in the House of Commons. 

A genuine and committed socialist, Chris is a friend, a brother and a comrade, and when I received the heartbreaking news that he had been suspended from the Labour Party amid allegations of anti-semitism I felt physically sick. 

The fact that Chris has been an anti-racist campaigner all his life was instrumental in setting up Holocaust Memorial Day events when a councillor and the fact that he has denounced anti-semitism as a scourge on society on a number of occasions seems to have now been all too quickly and conveniently forgotten. 

Jeremy Corbyn himself had defended Chris just a few weeks before in an interview with Derbyshire Live when he told them that “Chris is a very good, very effective Labour MP. He is a very strong anti-racist campaigner,” adding that “Chris is not anti-semitic in any way.” 

I agree wholeheartedly with Corbyn here — and knowing Chris personally, I can say without any shred of doubt that he is not an anti-semite.

However, the pressure to suspend Chris by the right-wing party machine and its close contacts within the sensationalist mainstream media, who used it to kick up a furore in an attempt to attack Corbyn and his most loyal supporters, became all too great.

In hindsight, when viewing the video from the Momentum meeting in Sheffield that quickly made its way around social media and ultimately led to his suspension, and knowing the likelihood of the consequences of his actions, Chris could have indeed used better judgement and chosen his words more carefully — but the video itself was taken out of context, and the original transcript of the speech shows Chris again denouncing anti-semitism as a “scourge” and that the Labour Party “has done more to tackle anti-semitism than any other party.”

Since his return to Parliament in 2017, Chris has been a fierce and uncompromising advocate for the persecuted and oppressed people of Palestine as well as an outspoken critic of the deplorable and heinous crimes committed by the state of Israel. 

This, alongside his call for the mandatory reselection of Labour MPs has clearly ruffled the feathers of the neoliberal Establishment and those who seek to protect its interests. 

It could be argued that the writing was on the wall for Chris right from the beginning of his parliamentary term — with his refusal to back down on calling for the right-wing mechanisations within the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) and its avaricious machine to be allowed to be truly held to account by its grassroots membership.

His Democracy Roadshow, in which he travelled the width and breadth of the country calling upon grassroots Labour Party members and activists to mobilise and win themselves more democratic power and agency — eventually culminating in the rule change at last year’s conference which made it easier for Constituency Labour Parties to trigger a reselection process should they wish to hold their MP to account — incurred the wrath of those within the PLP to whom accountability is not just an alien concept, but something they wish to avoid at all cost.  

Democratic accountability is a danger to the very existence of neoliberalism, and those who are still desperately clinging onto the cliff edge in order to protect the interests of the failed economic project will do anything and everything they can to try and ensure its survival. 

These forces began to mobilise against Chris shortly after he was re-elected to Parliament, with media outlets drip-feeding the narrative that he is an unashamed anti-semite after he expressed his support for Palestine when he joined a bike ride in solidarity within his constituency and tweeted about it, igniting a social media pile-on, fuelled by publications such as the right-wing Jewish Chronicle and hacks such as the Daily Mail’s laughably poor political commentator and caricature Dan Hodges. 

Time after time Chris stood up for the oppressed and disenfranchised against the Establishment, whether this be in the shameful case of unjustly suspended veteran activist Marc Wadsworth, or criticising the appalling actions of the Israeli state and Netanyahu regime. 

And time after time Chris was dogpiled by the right-wing apparaticks of neoliberalism within the PLP and their friends in the mainstream media.  

Ever refusing to be beaten, Chris has been now been smeared, castigated and thrown to the wolves. 

While it is important to remember that some concerns regarding anti-semitism within the Labour Party are genuine and are now in fact being dealt with by the party in a much more robust manner than they ever were when Iain McNicol was general secretary, the move by the Establishment to weaponise the matter is as cynical as it is abhorrent.  

The attempt to use these fears to try to undermine the Corbyn project and delegitimise the grassroots membership, alongside the narrative that we are nothing more than a mindless cult devoid of rationale, shows how low the reprehensible Establishment forces that are now wrestling with the radical labour movement for power will stoop.  

Many within the Jewish community have spoken out against the weaponisation of their heritage and culture, only to be told by some that they are simply the “wrong type” or self-hating Jews.

Libby Coleman is a Jewish activist and former head teacher whose father escaped nazi Germany while many members of his family, including his mother, were murdered in the Theresienstadt ghetto concentration camp, before going on to work for renowned nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal and helping catch notorious nazi and mastermind of the Holocaust Adolf Eichmann.

She spoke out on the issue, saying she was deeply ashamed of those “who attack Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. As the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, who became a British war hero, a nazi-hunter and worked for British intelligence all his life, I am truly sickened every time those such as Margaret Hodge make their inauthentic comments, which do not come from the heart but from a dark, destructive place. 

“I am shocked at those who are trying to stop people like Chris and Jeremy from simply making this world a better place. It is vital that Chris is reinstated back into the Labour Party, is on television and in the news as soon as possible as those of us who oppose any form of racism and tend to lose their cool in the face of discrimination need to see his calming rational, gracious influence to provide inspiration and calm us down.”

Many from the left have chosen to turn their back on Chris in the name of pragmatism and thrown him under the proverbial bus.  

But far from bringing the respite that was so desperately craved, this has actually given Tom Watson and his band of saboteurs an appetite and hunger for more destruction.  

They have since attacked many others from the Corbyn left including shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, Laura Murray and Labour general secretary Jennie Formby.  

This is the coup 2.0, and the compromise offered by those such as Owen Jones and Ash Sarkar has now been proven to be ill-advised and ill-fated.

Those with the vested interests of corporations and the elite will not stop until they have completely destroyed the Corbyn movement and any chance of democratically electing a government that will redress the balance of power in favour of the many rather than the few.

One of the most important things Chris ever taught me is that solidarity is most important when times are hard.  

Chris has ultimately paid the price for putting his head above the parapet and being the voice of all of us on the radical left. He would die on a hill for any one of us — and we should do the same for him. 

I will be raising an emergency motion of support for Chris in my local Labour Party branch and CLP, and despite the party machine disgracefully stating it will not accept motions of support for suspended members, I encourage you to do the same.  

This is symbolic — and we must remember that history will and shall absolve Chris as well as our movement. 

We shall ultimately be proven to be on the right side as we raise our voices in solidarity and campaign night and day so that Chris is returned to his rightful place beside Corbyn as we usher in what will be the most transformative and radical government in history.

As socialists this is a defining moment in our history. This is not the time for compromise, as the moment we concede on the values that unite us the movement is lost. 

We must always stand shoulder to shoulder with those who are oppressed, persecuted and dispossessed and stare down the face of all inequality, despite the forces that work against us. 

This is why I stand with Chris, and you should too.


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