Chris Williamson, Armed Forces Day and the latest move to block no deal

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Most of the Labour Party is talking about Chris Williamson, the MP who was suspended over comments about antisemitism in March and readmitted by a three-member national executive committee (NEC) panel yesterday. Although it was recommended by party staff that his case be referred upwards to Labour’s national constitutional committee (NCC), which deals with the most serious disciplinary matters, NEC members Keith Vaz and Huda Elmi instead chose to issue a formal warning and leave it at that.

Williamson’s replacement as shadow fire minister Karen Lee said she was “chuffed to bits” with the judgement, but many other Labour MPs have expressed outrage including Ruth Smeeth who said she was “horrified”. Progress have launched a campaign – kickoutchris.com – and a young member has started an open letter. Corbynites such as Owen Jones have spoken out too. One NEC member told LabourList that the full disputes panel (meeting in two weeks) has the power to overrule, which could happen “if there is a lot of political pressure”.

Another sometimes tricky area for Labour: Armed Forces Day is on Saturday. In light of research showing that an Army Private’s starting salary is almost £1,200 lower now than in 2010, Labour aims to be on the frontfoot. The party is marking the annual event this year with five pledges to support armed forces and their families: fair pay (scrap the public sector pay cap); decent housing; a voice for service men and woman (consult on creating a representative body); end privatisation (review outsourcing); support for forces children (strategy to help with the challenge of frequent school moves). Nia Griffith has said: “Those who serve our country deserve our full and unwavering support. The next Labour government will put the needs of the Armed Forces community at the very heart of what we do.”

In Brexit news, a fresh legislative move by MPs opposed to no deal has been revealed. Dominic Grieve and Margaret Beckett plan to make authorised spending in four departments conditional on the UK leaving only with a deal or only without a deal if the Commons gives approval. (See this thread for further details.) Labour’s recent bid to take control of the parliamentary agenda failed, rejected by 11 votes two weeks ago, but the latest strategy may be more successful.

Being led by cross-party backbenchers rather than Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MPs opposed to another referendum will be motivated to vote against the amendments but potential Tory rebels might be more attracted to the idea. The fact that there is advance warning will probably help reduce the number of absentees who weren’t able to make the vote at such short notice last time. This manoeuvre could do some significant damage to Boris Johnson, who now says the odds of no deal are “million-to-one against” but whose ability to get a new deal agreed and passed before October 31st is… highly questionable. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

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