Chris Williamson remains suspended from Labour after the High Court chose not to overturn the disciplinary decision – although it did rule that the party acted unlawfully in its handling of his case being reopened.
Reacting to the judgment, the MP for Derby North tweeted a thread in which he said “the battle is won”. He based this on the court deciding that the Labour Party had “no proper reason” to re-suspend him in June earlier this year.
However, Labour’s membership suspension of Williamson from the party still stands because he was suspended again on September 3rd, for the third time. This suspension was based on new evidence, including comments and behaviour from between July and September.
According to the High Court judgment, the new allegations did not show that Labour was “acting either unfairly or other than in good faith”. The court therefore did not “refuse relief” of the third suspension.
Commenting on the ruling, a Labour Party spokesperson said: “The court has upheld Chris Williamson’s suspension from the party and has said his disciplinary case must run its course.”
The court found that Labour does have the power “to reopen decisions where the original decision of a panel was flawed” but should not have made the decision to re-suspend via the disputes committee exclusively.
Instead, the party should have sought ratification of this decision by its organisational committee – known as ‘Org Sub’. The disputes committee and the organisational committee are comprised of the same members.
Williamson was originally suspended in February, after footage emerged of him telling a Momentum event: “The party that has done more to stand up to racism is now being demonised as a racist, bigoted party.
“I have got to say I think our party’s response has been partly responsible for that because in my opinion… we’ve backed off too much, we have given too much ground, we have been too apologetic.”
The suspension was then lifted in June following an investigation and decision by a three-member panel of Labour’s national executive committee (NEC). Then it was reimposed in July after the full disputes panel rejected the decision of the three-member panel.
In August, Williamson launched a crowdfunding appeal so that he could challenge his resuspension by the party in the courts. He fell short of his £75,000 target but raised almost £63,000.
The MP tweeted today: “I’m outraged that membership subscriptions given by our loyal activists have been used to pay legal fees. I’m outraged that I’ve had to resort to legal means to achieve justice.”
In response, Lara McNeill – a member of Labour’s NEC, who is considered to be on the left of the party – tweeted: “You can’t be that outraged because you’re the reason members subs were spent on legal fees in the first place”.
Williamson’s case is still awaiting a final decision. If it is not concluded before a general election, he cannot be Labour’s candidate in Derby North.