More than 90 Labour MPs and peers have called on Jeremy Corbyn to sack an MP readmitted to the party following a row over antisemitism.
Derby North MP Chris Williamson was suspended by the party in February after he was filmed saying Labour had been “too apologetic” amid claims of antisemitic comments from a number of members.
On Wednesday, it was revealed that Williamson – a vocal supporter of Corbyn – was allowed to rejoin the party after receiving a formal warning for his behaviour from a three-person panel.
Many Labour MPs expressed their outrage at the decision on Twitter, and on Thursday deputy leader Tom Watson spearheaded an open leader to Corbyn demanding Williamson be thrown out of the party.
Within hours, almost 70 Labour staff members submitted a letter to the party’s general secretary Jennie Formby, warning Williamson’s return “will help to create an environment where Jewish and non-Jewish employees, who care deeply about fighting antisemitism, are made to feel unwelcome by his presence whilst at work.”
Corbyn said he had no say in the decision to readmit Williamson, and said the party deals with antisemitism “very, very seriously” – a response Labour MP Wes Streeting described as “handwringing nonsense”.
The letter signed by MPs and peers read: “We call on Jeremy Corbyn to show leadership by asking for this inappropriate, offensive and reputationally damaging decision to be overturned and reviewed.
“Ultimately, it is for Jeremy Corbyn to decide whether Chris Williamson retains the Labour whip. He must remove it immediately if we are to stand any hope of persuading anyone that the Labour party is taking antisemitism seriously.”
Labour is currently under investigation by the equalities watchdog over whether the party has discriminated against, victimised, or harassed Jews.
In February, Jewish MP Luciana Berger resigned from Labour, claiming the party is “institutionally anti-Semitic” – a sentiment echoed by fellow quitter Mike Gapes.
Conservative MP James Cleverly suggested Labour parliamentarians needed to take stronger action than writing a letter in order to influence their party’s leadership.
“Labour have wrung their hands, publicly wept, and watched some of their number walk out of the party: Corbyn has ignored them,” he said, adding: “If they don’t take proper action now I don’t know what it will take.”