I want people to know the truth about Chris Williamson

Tessa Milligan on the campaign against the ex-Labour MP's bid for re-election

December 03, 2019 17:45

I didn’t know much about Chris Williamson until the summer of 2018. The issue of antisemitism in the Labour Party was featuring heavily in the news. The Jewish Labour Movement had publicly urged the Party to suspend Williamson for his behaviour.

They said he had "repeatedly shar[ed] platforms with expelled and suspended members of the Labour Party, claiming some of those speaking out against antisemitism within our Party were Tories in disguise, and regularly denying that antisemitism exists within Labour.”

I wanted to look for myself, so I went to his Twitter profile. What I saw was appalling, and it led me to join Hope not Hate to launch a campaign against his re-election in Derby North.

When I reached Williamson’s Twitter page, I was immediately struck by some of the content he was endorsing. There were tweets which described those highlighting antisemitism in the Labour Party as “traitors” and “smear merchants”, and compared the antisemitism row to a witch hunt.

He’d even liked a tweet which said of people speaking out against antisemitism that “they have all power, media, lobbies, money. We must resist them trying to silence us. Bonhoffer paid price for speaking out against Nazis”. I felt then, and I feel now, that this was a clear example of a racist depiction of Jews as all-powerful, media and money controlling, and compared us to Nazis. 

On Twitter Williamson had also defended a man who was expelled from Labour for saying we should boycott two major supermarket chains which have “Jewish blood”. He’d even appeared to endorse nasty messages against some of his colleagues in the Parliamentary Labour Party who’d spoken out against antisemitism.

I thought it was a clear breach of the rules of the party. I wasn’t trying to look into his heart and determine whether or not he is an antisemite, but it seemed clear to me that his online behaviour alone was beneath that which we should expect from an MP. I felt that he was whipping up resentment against my community. So I spoke out publicly about his Twitter activity and the official complaint I made about Williamson to the Party.

What followed was an avalanche of abuse from Williamson's supporters. Several said I was a "Tory in disguise". I was told that I was “insane”, “pathetic”, a “scumbag". Others insinuated that I was chasing money or being paid by Israel. Someone called me “lying vermin”. I was told that I was making the whole thing up, with one troll saying it would probably be my "final curtain call".

For several months afterwards where Williamson remained unsuspended, despite multiple complaints against him, it seemed to me that he was continuing to bait the Jewish community. A week after the MP Luciana Berger left the party citing antisemitism, Williamson booked a room in the House of Commons for an event hosting somebody who had been suspended from the party over comments they had made about Jews.

He signed and shared a petition in support of someone who had previously accused Jews of exploiting the Holocaust. On the BBC, he described the Black September terrorists who murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics as “alleged” terrorists.

I felt as if Chris Williamson was tormenting us. His behaviour has been brazen and callous.

When he eventually resigned from Labour, announcing that he would be standing as an independent candidate in this election, his resignation letter peddled antisemitic conspiracy theories about the Jewish Labour Movement and the supporters of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism.

Although I am disappointed that decisive action wasn’t taken earlier to expel him, I am glad and relieved that Williamson is out of the Labour Party – and I honestly believe that he still poses a danger to the Jewish community. 

In this election, in Derby North, Williamson is on the ballot paper, and I want to make sure local people know the truth about him. That’s why I’m backing Hope not Hate’s campaign in the seat. I’ll be working with them to tell people exactly who Chris Williamson is and what he believes and why he must be defeated at the ballot box.

I hope the people of Derby North use their votes to firmly reject Chris Williamson, the company he keeps and the hateful politics he espouses.

December 03, 2019 17:45

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive