Chris Williamson (politician)

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Chris Williamson
MP
Official portrait of Chris Williamson crop 2.jpg
Shadow Minister for Fire and Emergency Services
In office
3 July 2017 – 11 January 2018
LeaderJeremy Corbyn
Succeeded byKaren Lee
Member of Parliament
for Derby North
Assumed office
8 June 2017
Preceded byAmanda Solloway
Majority2,015 (4.1%)
In office
6 May 2010 – 7 May 2015
Preceded byBob Laxton
Succeeded byAmanda Solloway
Personal details
Born (1956-09-16) 16 September 1956 (age 62)
Derby, Derbyshire, England
NationalityBritish
Political partyLabour
Spouse(s)
  • Lonny Wilsoncroft
    (m. 1997; died 2004)
  • Maggie Amsbury[1]
Alma materLeicester Polytechnic
WebsiteOfficial website

Christopher Williamson (born 16 September 1956)[2] is a British Labour politician who has been the Member of Parliament for Derby North since 8 June 2017,[3] having served previously for the same seat from 2010 until 2015.[4] He was Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government for three years between October 2010 and October 2013.[5]

Williamson was also previously a local councillor in Derby, representing the Normanton ward from 1991 until his resignation in 2011.[6] He served as leader of Derby City Council twice.

Early life and career[edit]

Born in Derby, he attended the St. John Fisher Primary School in Alvaston; Castle Donington High School, and St. Thomas More High School, Allenton before Leicester Polytechnic (now De Montfort University) where he obtained a professional social work qualification (a CQSW) in 1985.[citation needed]

After working as a mechanical engineering apprentice for a year from 1972, Williamson then worked as a bricklayer for six years. He was a social worker in Derby from 1983 to 1986 before working as a welfare rights officer. He has been a vegan since the 1970s.[7]

Williamson joined the Labour Party in 1976. He became a councillor in 1991, then became leader of the Labour Group on Derby City Council, serving as leader of Derby City Council on two separate occasions. While council leader, Williamson formed a coalition with the Conservatives and in 2006 credited himself with having supported the private finance initiative (PFI) while Chair of Housing in the 1990s.[8] Interviewed in 2018, he termed his approach then as "innovative pragmatism" seeking to "be as radical as we possibly could within the confines that we were subjected to by central government". The scheme, he said, had not given "value for money".[8]

He is a member of the League Against Cruel Sports and vice chair of the Local Government Anti Poverty Forum.[9]

Parliamentary career[edit]

First term (2010–15)[edit]

Williamson was the second newly elected MP of the 2010 intake to make his maiden speech in the House of Commons, speaking in response to the Queen's Speech on 25 May 2010.

In October 2010, he became Shadow Fire and Emergency Services Minister within the Shadow Communities and Local Government team after serving just four months as an MP but after a reshuffle of the shadow cabinet in 2013 his role as shadow minister was replaced by Lyn Brown.[10] During this period he supported the Cameron coalition's 2011 military intervention in Libya and the British action against ISIS in Iraq in parliamentary votes in 2014. In April 2018 Williamson said he was "naive" to support the votes on military intervention, although he was initially indecisive on the 2014 vote. He abstained on the Immigration Bill in 2014, following an instruction from the whips, which was later blamed for the Windrush scandal. He said at the time of the scandal: "I have to say – if I'm being honest – I didn't study it enough or fully appreciate the implications."[8]

He served as a member of the Communities and Local Government Committee between July and November 2010 and from November 2013 to March 2015.[11]

He was one of 16 signatories of an open letter to Ed Miliband in January 2015 calling on the party to commit to opposing further austerity, taking rail franchises back into public ownership and strengthening collective bargaining arrangements.[12]

At the 2015 general election, Williamson lost the Derby North seat to Amanda Solloway of the Conservative Party by 41 votes.

Second term (2017–present)[edit]

The Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn described Williamson in early 2016 as a "very great friend", saying that his defeat at the 2015 general election was "the worst result of that night".[13] Williamson is an ally of Corbyn and during the 2017 general election campaign he was described by the New Statesman as the "most pro-Jeremy Corbyn candidate in England's most marginal constituency".[14] Williamson expressed the opinion that his 2017 general election campaign in Derby North would be a "test case for Corbynism",[15] and Corbyn campaigned for Williamson on 6 May. [8]

At the unexpected general election, Williamson regained his former seat from Amanda Solloway of the Conservatives with a majority of 2,015 votes. On 3 July 2017 Williamson was appointed Shadow Fire and Emergency Services Minister within the Shadow Home Office team.[16][17]

In August 2017, Williamson argued in favour of a plan, previously suggested by Jeremy Corbyn during his first leadership campaign, for women-only train carriages to reduce sexual assaults; reported incidents of which have doubled since 2012.[18] Labour colleagues Jess Phillips and Stella Creasy were critical of the idea.[19] The Women's Equality Party also criticised his comments.[20]

Williamson resigned as shadow fire and emergency services minister on 11 January 2018; a day earlier he had suggested in an interview that council tax on the highest value homes should be doubled. The pronouncement, which is not party policy and was outside Williamson's remit, was made without the knowledge of Andrew Gwynne, the shadow secretary of state for communities and local government.[21]

He says that with Corbyn as leader the party has "a common-sense socialist" who does not place MPs in the situation of risking being in conflict with the party whips. Williamson insists he is "not one for undermining the leadership publicly", explaining the difference between his history in the division lobbies and Corbyn's earlier frequent parliamentary vote rebellions as Corbyn expressing the opinions of party members on each occasion..[8]

Labour and alleged antisemitism under Corbyn[edit]

In an interview with Rowena Mason of The Guardian in late August 2017, Williamson said the disagreements over Corbyn's handling of antisemitism within the Labour Party and criticism of Corbyn's approach to the crisis in Venezuela were "proxy wars and bullshit". According to Williamson: "I’m not saying it never ever happens but it is a really dirty, lowdown trick, particularly the antisemitism smears. Many people in the Jewish community are appalled by what they see as the weaponisation of antisemitism for political ends."[22]

Marie van der Zyl, the Board of Deputies vice-president, said that Williamson should "show solidarity with those suffering racism within his own party rather than blaming the victims". Williamson described antisemitism as being "utterly repugnant and a scourge on society, which is why I stand in absolute solidarity with anyone who is subjected to antisemitic abuse".[23] In a later September 2017 article in Tribune magazine he wrote that his critics' "accusations of anti-Semitism were positively sinister" and "highly offensive and hurtful" in suggesting "that I was an anti-Semite myself, yet I have fought racism all my adult life".[24]

In April 2018, Williamson said he had come across evidence that Conservatives are posing on Twitter as Corbyn supporters. The other interviewee on the same Sky News broadcast, Nicky Morgan, an Education Secretary in the Cameron government, asked him a number of times if he favoured the expulsion of Ken Livingstone from the Labour Party.[25] A month earlier, at a Momentum event in Peterborough, Williamson included Livingstone in his remarks: "We've got these ridiculous suspensions and expulsions from the party" made "in the most grotesque and unfair way".[26]

In late April of the same year, Williamson backed Len McCluskey, who in a New Statesman article had accused Labour MPs of a campaign against Corbyn using the issue of antisemitism. He described his colleagues as "malcontents", on the BBC's Daily Politics programme, who were “completely out of step with party members" and voters.[27] During the interview he said deselection of MPs such as Chris Leslie, one of the Labour MPs named by McCluskey, was "a matter for Labour Party members in each constituency and not a matter for me or indeed Len".[28]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Carr, Tim; Dale, Iain; Waller, Robert, eds. (2017). The Politicos Guide to the New House of Commons 2017. London: Politicos. p. 423. ISBN 9781785902789.
  2. ^ Who's Who 2018. A.C. Black/Bloomsbury/Oxford University Press. 2017. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.251187.[page needed]
  3. ^ "Chris Williamson MP". UK Parliament.
  4. ^ "Chris Williamson". Derby Telegraph.
  5. ^ "Chris Williamson MP". UK Parliament. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  6. ^ "DERBY North MP Chris Williamson has resigned from his position as councillor for Normanton after 20 years". This is Derbyshire. 26 March 2011. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  7. ^ Kerry McCarthy MP full transcript (column 898), World Vegan Day, Adjournment Debate, House of Commons, 1 November 2011.
  8. ^ a b c d e Casalicchio, Emilio (26 April 2018). "Chris Williamson: 'It's like all my Christmases have come together – the sort of Labour party I dreamed about'". Politics Home. The House. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  9. ^ "Chris Williamson – Parliamentary candidates". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 6 March 2012. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  10. ^ "Ed Miliband shifts Leftwards at conference but Rightwards in the PLP". Left Futures. 2013-10-09. Retrieved 2017-07-10.
  11. ^ "Chris Williamson MP". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2017-07-10.
  12. ^ Eaton, George (26 January 2015). "The Labour left demand a change of direction – why their intervention matters". New Statesman. Retrieved 5 April 2015.
  13. ^ "Corbyn: Chris Williamson losing Derby North was 'the worst result of that night'". Derby Telgraph. 11 February 2016. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  14. ^ Chakelian, Anoosh (10 May 2017). "Life as Labour's most pro-Jeremy Corbyn candidate in England's most marginal constituency". New Statesman. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  15. ^ "Corbyn Must 'Absolutely' Remain Labour Leader Even If He Loses The Election, Says Ally". HuffPost. 3 May 2017. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  16. ^ "Reshuffle 2: The Maintenance of the Malcontents". New Socialist. 2017-07-08. Retrieved 2017-07-10.
  17. ^ "Jeremy Corbyn appoints 20 MPs to Labour's front bench". Labour Press. Retrieved 2017-07-10.
  18. ^ Schofield, Kevin (2 August 2017). "EXCL Shadow minister suggests women-only train carriages to cut down on sex assaults". Politics Home. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  19. ^ Elgot, Jessica (23 August 2017). "Shadow minister faces backlash over women-only train carriage idea". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  20. ^ Walker, Sophie (24 August 2017). "Women-only train carriages are not the answer". Women's Equality Party. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  21. ^ Stewart, Heather (11 January 2018). "Chris Williamson quits Labour frontbench after 'double council tax' call". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  22. ^ Mason, Rowena (28 August 2017). "MPs should have no say over who leads Labour, argues shadow minister". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
  23. ^ Harpin, Lee (29 August 2017). "Anger as 'deplorable' Labour MP dismisses antisemitism allegations as 'smears'". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
  24. ^ Williamson, Chris (9 September 2017). "Agenda setting". Tribune. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
  25. ^ Harpin, Lee (18 April 2018). "Labour MP claims antisemitic trolls are Tories in disguise". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  26. ^ Harpin, Lee (19 March 2018). "Board of Deputies condemns Labour MP's comments backing Ken Livingstone". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  27. ^ Fisher, Lucy (26 April 2018). "Sir Keir Starmer hits back at Union leader Len McCluskey in antisemitism row". The Times. Retrieved 28 April 2018. (subscription required)
  28. ^ Foster, Matt (26 April 2018). "Chris Williamson blasts 'malcontent' Labour MPs amid bitter anti-Semitism row". Politics Home. Retrieved 28 April 2018.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Bob Laxton
Member of Parliament for Derby North
20102015
Succeeded by
Amanda Solloway
Preceded by
Amanda Solloway
Member of Parliament for Derby North
2017–present
Incumbent