London Mayor Sadiq Khan has added his voice to those of fellow Labour politicians criticising the decision to readmit Chris Williamson MP to the party following his suspension after arguing that Labour had “given too much ground” when criticised for antisemitism.
Speaking at the annual State of London debate at the O2 last night, the Labour Mayor, who is arguably the most powerful Labour politician in the country, said Williamson “should be outside our party, not allowed in” and that the decision to end the suspension was “wrong substantively” as well as “sending all the wrong messages”.
Well over 100 Labour MPs and peers, including deputy leader Tom Watson, had earlier signed a statement condemning the process that allowed Williamson, the MP for Derby North, back into the party at a time when Labour is being investigated by the equality and human rights commission over repeated allegations of entrenched antisemitism at all levels since Jeremy Corbyn became party leader in 2015.
Khan gave the unequivocal answer “no” to a question from the event’s host, LBC presenter James O’Brien, who asked him if he thought Williamson had “any business in the Labour Party at the moment”. The Mayor said the decision was a matter for regret and that “from the evidence I’ve seen I think there’s a prima facie case for him being antisemitic”.
He also called on the Conservatives to deal with Islamophobia in their ranks, saying that both of the UK’s largest political parties and their leaders “need to sort their houses out”. He said Labour has “serious questions to ask [ourselves] in relation to antisemitism” and that the Tories’ problems with anti-Muslim sentiments are “as bad”. A recent opinion poll found that more than two thirds of Tory members nationally believe that parts of the UK have fallen under sharia law and 45% of them think some areas of the country are unsafe for non-Muslims.
Khan’s predecessor as Mayor, Boris Johnson, who is now MP for Uxbridge & South Ruislip and the front runner in the contest to become the next Tory leader and Prime Minister, seems to have backed away from a pledge to order an independent inquiry into the issue he appeared to have made just days before. At the State of London Debate Khan said that during the 2012 Olympics Johnson had made a good job of demonstrating London’s “pluralism” and by “celebrating our diversity”.
You can watch the State of London Debate in full on the Mayor’s Facebook page.
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