A statement issued by the Labour Party of Northern Ireland (LPNI) and a poll of its readers by the LabourList site have both come out strongly in support of the reinstatement of the suspended MP Chris Williamson to the Labour whip.
Williamson was re-suspended last week after a farcical u-turn by Labour MP Keith Vaz left the party with no option. Vaz was a member of the three-person National Executive Committee panel that opted, under independent legal advice, to reinstate Williamson with a formal warning – but after the outcry by the Labour right he claimed he had been under the influence of medication and incompetent to participate in the panel.
LabourList’s poll found that over 61% of respondents supported Williamson’s reinstatement, with 31% opposing – a perhaps surprising result given that the usually centrist readership of the site might not naturally tend toward sympathy with Williamson’s politics.
LPNI published a motion opposing Williamson’s second suspension and a statement. The statement includes the full comments made by the MP that have usually been selectively quoted by his critics and cites analysis of the scale of antisemitism in the Labour Party, before concluding:
All anti-semitisim should be considered a scourge and a problem that needs addressing. However, it is a fair comment to say that the Labour Party does not have any form of particular problem with anti-semitism . It is also fair to say that Labour Party Members are not to blame for the narrative that suggests that there is a particular problem with anti-semitism in the party.
It logically follows that members of the Labour Party should not feel that they should be apologetic about something that has been shown to be false.
It does not diminish the scourge of anti-semitism to state these things. Members are entitled to feel proud of the Labour Party’s history of anti-racism and support for minority communities and for all of those facing discrimination and oppression. They are entitled to encourage others to join the party and to support it on the basis of its anti-racist and wholly inclusive credentials.
Any member is entitled to say that those who are agreeing and apologising for the Labour Party having a particular problem with anti-semitism, is a concession to falsehoods and distortions. In a climate where such falsehoods and distortions proliferate, members are entitled to challenge the narrative. They are entitled to scrutinise complaints. They are entitled to adopt an inquisitorial approach to allegations. Every member who is accused is entitled to the absolutely fundamental principle of justice; that they are considered innocent until it is established otherwise.
Most of all, every member is entitled to be subject to the democratically determined rules and procedures governing the Party and to demand that those rules and procedures be upheld and not be subject to the arbitrariness of public opinion and pressure.
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