Chris Williamson’s court case

PLEASE  NOTE THERE IS NO BAN ON MOVING MOTIONS IN SUPPORT OF CHRIS: We hear that, again, in a number of branches and CLPs, the chair has prevented the meeting from discussing motions in support of Chris because of apparent guidelines sent out by Labour HQ. Labour Against the Witchhunt have produced detailed advice to show that this is not the case – click here for more info and details on  how to move a motion.

A) Motion on Chris Williamson court case

This branch/CLP notes with concern 
1) the judgement of the High Court that the Labour Party had “acted unfairly” in retrospectively re-imposing suspension of Chris Williamson MP following the decision of a panel of the National Executive Committee to reinstate his membership; that “there was no proper reason for reopening the case against Mr Williamson”; and that this act was “unlawful”;
2) the misuse of precious Labour Party funds to defend this unlawful procedure in the High Court; 
3) the further persecution by the Labour Party in arbitrarily imposing on Chris Williamson a second suspension.

We consider the entire report by Judge Pepperall a damning indictment of our party’s internal disciplinary procedures, and declare our loss of confidence in the integrity of the current disciplinary process, rendering it unfit for purpose.

We therefore call on the General Secretary to:
1) lift the suspension of Chris Williamson MP forthwith;
2) end the practice of instant expulsions and suspensions;
3) reinstate the membership of all those summarily expelled or suspended without due process;
4) conduct a comprehensive review of the party’s legal, disciplinary and disputes procedures; and
5) ensure that all future disciplinary procedures are carried out in accordance with the principles of natural justice.

* * * *

For your information, here are some background notes…
Chris Williamson MP was suspended on February 27. On June 26, a three-person antisemitism panel of Labour’s National Executive Committee voted to reinstate Williamson. This was made up of Keith Vaz MP, Huda Elmi and Gerarld Howarth MP. On June 27, following a public campaign against the decision led by Tom Watson, Keith Vaz claimed that he was undergoing medical procedures and felt that he had “not been fit” to consider any of the cases dealt with that day. On June 28, general secretary Jennie Formby informed all NEC members that the decision of the panel would be revisited by the full NEC Disputes Panel. This decided on July 9 that Williamson was suspended again and on July 19 it referred Williamson’s case to the party’s National Constitutional Committee.

In his judgement of October 10 2019, judge Edward Pepperall ruled that “the party acted unfairly” in re-suspending Chris Williamson MP on July 9 and that “there was no proper reason for reopening the case against Mr Williamson and referring the original allegations to the NCC”. Judge Pepperall declared the re-suspension “unlawful” and that “the Labour Party is no longer able lawfully to pursue the original [February 27] disciplinary case against Mr Williamson”.

Judge Pepperall explained that it was “not difficult to infer that the true reason for the decision [to re-suspend Chris] in this case was that [NEC] members were influenced by the ferocity of the outcry following the June decision.” He referenced Tom Watson organising a public letter of 90 MPs and peers and another letter by 70 Labour staffers, demanding that Jeremy Corbyn strip Williamson of the whip. He also mentioned Margaret Hodge’s claim that the decision meant the “party is turning a blind eye to Jew-hate”. The judge made scathing criticisms of Keith Vaz, who “by June 27 appears to have had seconds thoughts about the matter” by raising “issues about his health”. “It would be surprising if, as an experienced Parliamentarian, Mr Vaz, a) had taken part in an important meeting if he felt himself unfit to do so; and b) then failed to clearly make that point in his subsequent email.” Further, the judge thinks it “surprising” that neither George Howarth nor Huda Elmi “raised the issue of his fitness either at the time or subsequently”.

On September 3, a week before the hearing started, the Labour Party issued Chris Williamson with a second suspension on top of his first one. These new allegations, listed in the judgement, clearly do not warrant a suspension: “sending an email to a member of the public who had complained to you about your criticism of Margaret Hodge MP that referred her to a video critical of Margaret Hodge; publicly legitimising or endorsing the misconduct of members or former members who have been found grossly detrimental or prejudicial to the Labour Party; publicly characterising the disciplinary process of the party as politically motivated and/or not genuine. However, as the party had followed its own constitutional procedures correctly, the judge could find “nothing inherently unfair in investigating these fresh allegations”. This is why Chris Williamson remains suspended from the party.

Please note that the press have wrongly reported that Chris Williamson lost his appeal. That is a wilful misrepresentation. He remains suspended on the new charges, on which no ruling has been made.


Model motion from Labour Against the Witchhunt

(shorter version available here)

1) This branch/CLP notes:

a) That Chris Williamson MP was suspended on February 27. On June 26, a three-person antisemitism panel of Labour’s National Executive Committee voted to reinstate Williamson. This was made up of Keith Vaz MP, Huda Elmi and Gerald Howarth MP.

b) That on June 27, following a public campaign against the decision led by Tom Watson, Keith Vaz claimed that he was undergoing medical procedures and felt that he had “not been fit” to consider any of the cases dealt with that day.

c) That on June 28, general secretary Jennie Formby informed all NEC members that the decision of the panel would be revisited by the full NEC Disputes Panel. This decided on July 9 that Williamson was suspended again and on July 19 it referred Williamson’s case to the party’s National Constitutional Committee (as this is dominated by the right, a referral usually results in expulsion).

2) We further note:

a) That in his judgement of October 10 2019, judge Edward Pepperall ruled that, “the party acted unfairly” in re-suspending Chris Williamson MP on July 9 and that “there was no proper reason for reopening the case against Mr Williamson and referring the original allegations to the NCC”. Judge Pepperall declared the re-suspension “unlawful” and that “the Labour Party is no longer able lawfully to pursue the original [February 27] disciplinary case against Mr Williamson”.

b) That judge Pepperall explains that it was “not difficult to infer that the true reason for the decision [to re-suspend Chris] in this case was that [NEC] members were influenced by the ferocity of the outcry following the June decision.” He references Tom Watson organising a public letter of 90 MPs and peers and another letter by 70 Labour staffers, demanding that Jeremy Corbyn strip Williamson of the whip. He also mentions Margaret Hodge’s claim that the decision meant the “party is turning a blind eye to Jew-hate”.

c) That the judge makes scathing criticisms of Keith Vaz, who “by June 27 appears to have had seconds thoughts about the matter” by raising “issues about his health”. “It would be surprising if, as an experienced Parliamentarian, Mr Vaz, a) had taken part in an important meeting if he felt himself unfit to do so; and b) then failed to clearly make that point in his subsequent email.” Further, the judge thinks it “surprising” that neither George Howarth nor Huda Elmi “raised the issue of his fitness either at the time or subsequently”.

d) That Labour Party HQ repeatedly briefed against Chris Williamson in the media – including the release of private details about his case – which resulted in him being abused and smeared in public by wild and unsubstantiated allegations. Meanwhile, he was not allowed to defend himself, as he was required to sign a confidentiality statement. As opposed to Labour Party HQ, he fully complied with this requirement. In fact, the judge was so concerned about those leaks that he even asked the Party lawyers for them to discontinue.

3) We note with great concern, however:

a) That on September 3, a week before the hearing started, the Labour Party issued Chris Williamson with a second suspension on top of his first one.

b) That these new allegations, listed in the judgement, clearly do not warrant a suspension:

  • “Sending an email to a member of the public who had complained to you about your criticism of Margaret Hodge MP that referred her to a video” which was critical of Margaret Hodge.
  • “Publicly legitimising or endorsing the misconduct of members or former members” who have been found “grossly detrimental or prejudicial to the Labour Party” – ie, standing up for Marc Wadsworth, Jackie Walker, Ken Livingstone etc.
  • “Publicly characterising the disciplinary process of the party” as “politically motivated and/or not genuine”.

c) However, as the party had followed its own constitutional procedures correctly, the judge could find “nothing inherently unfair in investigating these fresh allegations”.

d) That this is why Chris Williamson remains suspended from the party.

4) This CLP believes:

a) That the report by Judge Pepperall is a damning indictment of our party’s internal disciplinary procedures. If anything, it proves that Chris Williamson was correct to criticise the disciplinary process of the party as “politically motivated” (one of the allegations leading to his September 3 suspension).

b) That Chris Williamson has said and done nothing that could be characterised as anti-Semitic or that warrants his ongoing suspension from the party. His September 3 suspension was only launched to stop him from becoming Labour’s parliamentary candidate in Derby North once again: suspended members are not allowed to stand.

c) That this shows to what length Labour HQ will go in its futile campaign to try and appease the right in the party. But they will never accept Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party, let alone prime minister. They will continue their campaign of sabotage, because he remains unreliable from the ruling class’s point of view, especially given his strong support for the rights of Palestinians.

d) That there is a total loss of confidence in the competence, credibility and integrity of the current disciplinary process, rendering it unfit for purpose.

e) That this brings into serious question the veracity and the credibility of this latest suspension of Chris Williamson, as well as the disciplinary measures taken against many other members.

5) We therefore call on the General Secretary Jennie Formby to:

a) Order a comprehensive overhaul of the Labour Party legal, disciplinary and disputes body. The party must end the practice of automatic and instant expulsions and suspensions and all those summarily expelled or suspended without due process should be immediately reinstated. Disciplinary procedures should be carried out in accordance with the principles of natural justice.

b) Order an investigation into the conduct of members of the NEC Disputes Panel and any Party members, including MPs, who have interfered with and corrupted disciplinary processes. On completion of such an investigation that the appropriate disciplinary measures be taken against anyone found to be in breach of procedural regulations, leaking confidential material to the press or guilty of any other misconduct.

c) Order the immediate lifting of the suspension of Chris Williamson MP and issue an apology to him.