Chris Williamson is going to take legal action against the EHRC

Chris Williamson
Fréa Lockley

Chris Williamson, former Labour MP for Derby North, says he’s named in the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report into antisemitism in the Labour Party. On 29 July, Williamson said he plans to ‘take on’ the EHRC. 

“Smear campaign”

In May 2019, the EHRC launched an investigation to determine whether the Labour Party had “unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish”.

In a press release, Williamson said the report was “circulated to those it had named earlier this month”. The investigation has now finished and a report of its findings is due later this year. At this stage, details in the draft report remain confidential.

Williamson has assembled a legal team to challenge his inclusion in the draft report. He’s also set up a crowdfunder to raise £10,000 to cover legal costs.

Speaking about his decision to take legal action against the EHRC, Williamson said:

I know that I can rely on the support and solidarity of thousands of people in taking on the EHRC. Many people are alarmed at the way in which this supposedly impartial body is operating.

In my view, the EHRC’s conduct has played a leading role in legitimising a McCarthyite smear campaign against the British Left, and was instrumental in the attempts to derail Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

It seems pretty clear that the EHRC lacks independence from the government and has been abusing its legal mandate by attacking the Official Opposition.

“Mired in scandal” 

The EHRC insists it “operates independently”. It also states:

We use our unique powers to challenge discrimination, promote equality of opportunity and protect human rights.

However, there are growing concerns about impartiality and its links with the Conservative Party.

In 2019, BBC Newsnight shared details of a letter that raised concerns about EHRC chair David Isaac. The letter, sent by chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath, questioned EHRC independence from government. According to Newsnight, it said:

David [Isaac] regularly declines to take public positions… Recent examples include the publication of a piece of research into the implications of losing access to EU structural funds, and the stripping of Shamima Begum’s citizenship.

Hilsenrath’s criticisms don’t seem politically motivated and she previously criticised Labour’s handling of antisemitism. In response, the EHRC said it took “impartiality and independence very seriously” and that:

Our investigation into the Labour Party has robust procedures in place to ensure its impartiality and anyone with a conflict, or perceived conflict of interest, plays no part.

“A right-wing attack dog”

However, further questions have emerged about EHRC independence and impartiality. In June 2019, Newsweek reported that EHRC commissioner Pavita Cooper failed to “declare her donation and fundraising activity for the Conservative Party”.

In May, the EHRC refused to investigate Islamophobia in the Conservative Party despite receiving a number of complaints. Meanwhile, the investigation into antisemitism allegations in Labour continued.

On 28 July, a Newsweek exclusive revealed that two former EHRC commissioners said “they were not reappointed to their roles because they were “too loud and vocal” about issues of race”. It continued:

Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece, who at the time was the only Muslim commissioner and Lord Simon Woolley who was the only black commissioner, both lost their positions in November 2012.

There are currently no Black or Muslim board members. Newsweek also reported that Hussein-Ece said:

“I don’t think islamophobia or anti-Muslim hate is taken seriously” and called for the EHRC to do more.

In a press release, Williamson said:

Far from being an ‘equalities watchdog’, I’d say that the EHRC has become a right-wing attack dog. It must be urgently disbanded.

Solidarity

As The Canary reported, there are serious questions over the way allegations of antisemitism against Williamson were handled. In 2019, he successfully crowdfunded over £63,000 to bring a legal challenge against the Labour Party in the High Court.

After winning back legal costs, he established a Left Legal Fighting Fund to “assist other activists who have been maliciously smeared and harassed”. It’s also now providing legal support to Black Lives Matter protesters.

If the new crowdfunder meets its goal, any recovered costs from the legal action and unused funds will be donated to the Left Legal Fighting Fund to help other activists. Meanwhile, as attacks continue against Jeremy Corbyn and left-wing activists, solidarity is now more important than ever.

Featured image via Maggie Amsbury used with permission

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  • Show Comments
    1. Well done Chris. So, I have to assume that the ECHR report is similar to the Panorama programme, one sided, anti Labour, light on any facts or evidence and a complete whitewash in fact. I wasn’t surprised. You are right to take them on they are part of the Government and probably the BoD and MSM.

      I wonder, did they include the leaked Labour Party internal report about the savage role of the right wing within the Party in impeding and blocking proper process and investigation of these claims?

      We certainly don’t live in a democracy. The very institutions that are meant to be impartial are not in any sense of the word. Ofcom refusing to investigate the Panorama programme, the ECHR as you say, setting out to smear the Labour movement, the gross interference of the Israeli Government in our Parliament which is allowed to continue and so on and so forth.

      The report, I guess, is probably not worth using even as toilet paper.

      1. No Anthony 44 that honour goes to Tory MPs, the ECHR, the MSM and other organisations such as Ofcom who are meant to be impartial and are just another arm of the Government. They are corrupt. Chris Williamson is not. The ECHR report will be just another Panorama programme one-sided, a witch-hunt and very little of interest to say.

        We have an ECHR who has no black commisioners, no muslim commissioners and probably no representation from other BAME groups. Impartiality? I don’t think so. The ECHR is a political organisation not an impartial one. It undertakes an investigation into alleged anti-semitism in Labour in the run up to the GE 2018 knowing full well it affect the Labour campaign yet, despite a significant complaint from the Muslim Council of Britain with a mountain of evidence against the Tory Party for Islamophobia, it allows the Tory Party to conduct their own investigation. Not the same standard applied to the same issue is it?

        John Ware has set in motion litigation – the truth will out in these court cases because they are being defended. It is the ECHR wasting public money not Chris Williamson – these organisations are not fit for purpose because they are not impartial. Chris has seen the report. His comments make it clear as to what its conclusions are.

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