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Reality Check: Chris Williamson WON his legal challenge The media and the PLP are spinning their own gamesmanship as victory

Kit Knightly

Unless you’ve been paying close attention, it’s probably hard to keep up with just how many times Chris Williamson MP has been suspended from the Labour Party. For those of you keeping score, it’s three times. That number likely surprises some of you, but we’ll get to that.

Here’s a quick timeline:

FEBRUARY 2019 – A video emerges of Chris Williamson speaking at an event for Momentum in Sheffield (above). In the video Williamson claims that Labour have been “too apologetic” in dealing with accusations of antisemitism, and that they should stand up for their record as an anti-racist party.

The press portrayed this very dishonestly – and still do to this day – summing it up as “Williamson claimed Labour too apologetic over antisemitism”. He is suspended before the end of the month, pending an investigation.

26th JUNE 2019 – Four months later Williamson is re-instated. This caused much outrage in both the press and PLP.

A list of very predictable names wrote articles about it.

28th JUNE 2019 – Amazingly, just TWO DAYS LATER, Williamson is “re-suspended”.

The decision of the disciplinary panel was overturned, a second panel claiming the decision to reinstate Williamson “cannot safely stand”. (They never explain what, if anything, that actually means).

8th JULY 2019The Guardian publishes an open letter signed by, among others, Noam Chomsky and Norman Finklestein, defending Williamson against charges of racism, and claiming the accusations were “politically motivated”.

9th JULY 2019The Guardian takes the letter down, with no explanation. The Huffington Post wrote a piece defending the decision. OffGuardian republished the letter in full.

14th AUGUST 2019 – Williamson, following a crowd-funding campaign, announces he is taking the Labour Party to court. He claims they violated their rules when they “re-suspended” him without a hearing or explanation.

3rd SEPTEMBER 2019 – This is where things get…convuluted. The Labour Party announce they are suspending Williamson…again. As in, he’s now suspended twice. (Extra-suspended? Mega-suspended? Double-suspended?)

Why did they do this seemingly pointless thing? Well, they argue, it’s because Williamson had:

undermined the party’s ability to campaign against antisemitism by publicly characterising the disciplinary processes against racism as “politically motivated and/or not genuine”

Williamson, and his legal team, argued it was more cynical than that – That Labour had added a further suspension because they knew they were about to lose in court.

An argument that gained some strong circumstantial evidence when…

10th OCTOBER 2019 – Labour lose in court. Ignore the headlines: That’s what happened. The original case brought was that Labour had acted unlawfully when “re-suspending” Williamson, and the Judge – Justice Pepperall – found in Williamson’s favour, declaring that Labour had acted “unlawfully”:

Having communicated the panel’s decision as final, the Labour Party acted unfairly in that there was no proper reason for reopening the case against Mr Williamson and referring the original allegations to the (national constitutional committee)….the Labour Party is no longer able lawfully to pursue the original disciplinary case against Mr Williamson.”

However, the Labour party had issued its “double suspension” on unrelated matters, and on that front the Judge ruled:

nothing in the new allegations, the timing of the letter of September 3 or the decision to suspend that entitles me to take the view upon the papers that the Labour Party is acting either unfairly or other than in good faith.”

So, to sum up, the sneaky workaround was highly effective.

Chris Williamson is still suspended from the Labour Party, despite a court ruling that the NEC had acted “unfairly” and “unlawfully”, the PLP still get exactly what they wanted.

This has allowed every mainstream publication to run this headline:

MP Chris Williamson loses anti-Semitism suspension appeal

The BBC, The Guardian, The Jewish Chronicle, The Evening Standard, The Daily Mail…they all take the same dishonest angle. Only a couple of them even mention the first finding.

All of them running the same dishonest headline, saved from outright deception by a tiny kernel of manipulated, contrived and contextless “truth”.

Chris Williamson won. Labour cheated. The media lied.

That’s the actual truth.