Chris Williamson (politician)
|Shadow Minister for Fire and Emergency Services|
3 July 2017 – 11 January 2018
|Succeeded by||Karen Lee|
|Member of Parliament |
for Derby North
|Assumed office |
8 June 2017
|Preceded by||Amanda Solloway|
6 May 2010 – 7 May 2015
|Preceded by||Bob Laxton|
|Succeeded by||Amanda Solloway|
|Born||16 September 1956|
Derby, Derbyshire, England
|Alma mater||Leicester Polytechnic|
Christopher Williamson (born 16 September 1956) is a British Labour politician who has been the Member of Parliament for Derby North since 8 June 2017, having served previously for the same seat from 2010 until 2015. He was Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government for three years between October 2010 and October 2013.
Early life and career
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.
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.
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. 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".
First term (2010–15)
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. 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."
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.
Second term (2017–present)
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". 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". Williamson expressed the opinion that his 2017 general election campaign in Derby North would be a "test case for Corbynism", and Corbyn campaigned for Williamson on 6 May. 
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.
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. Labour colleagues Jess Phillips and Stella Creasy were critical of the idea. The Women's Equality Party also criticised his comments.
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.
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..
Labour and alleged antisemitism under Corbyn
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."
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". 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".
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. 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".
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. 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".
- Carr, Tim; Dale, Iain; Waller, Robert, eds. (2017). The Politicos Guide to the New House of Commons 2017. London: Politicos. p. 423. ISBN 9781785902789.
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- Kerry McCarthy MP full transcript (column 898), World Vegan Day, Adjournment Debate, House of Commons, 1 November 2011.
- 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.
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- Eaton, George (26 January 2015). "The Labour left demand a change of direction – why their intervention matters". New Statesman. Retrieved 5 April 2015.
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- Elgot, Jessica (23 August 2017). "Shadow minister faces backlash over women-only train carriage idea". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
- Walker, Sophie (24 August 2017). "Women-only train carriages are not the answer". Women's Equality Party. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
- Stewart, Heather (11 January 2018). "Chris Williamson quits Labour frontbench after 'double council tax' call". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
- Mason, Rowena (28 August 2017). "MPs should have no say over who leads Labour, argues shadow minister". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
- Harpin, Lee (29 August 2017). "Anger as 'deplorable' Labour MP dismisses antisemitism allegations as 'smears'". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
- Williamson, Chris (9 September 2017). "Agenda setting". Tribune. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
- Harpin, Lee (18 April 2018). "Labour MP claims antisemitic trolls are Tories in disguise". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
- Harpin, Lee (19 March 2018). "Board of Deputies condemns Labour MP's comments backing Ken Livingstone". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
- 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)
- Foster, Matt (26 April 2018). "Chris Williamson blasts 'malcontent' Labour MPs amid bitter anti-Semitism row". Politics Home. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Chris Williamson.|
- Profile at Parliament of the United Kingdom
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 2010–present
- Voting record at Public Whip
- Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
| Member of Parliament for Derby North
| Member of Parliament for Derby North