POLITICS
06/11/2019 13:54 GMT | Updated 06/11/2019 16:28 GMT

Ex-MPs Chris Williamson, Stephen Hepburn And Roger Godsiff Axed As Labour Candidates For General Election

Party's ruling National Executive Committee met to decide former MPs' fate.

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Chris Williamson outside the Birmingham Civil Justice Centre where he lost his High Court bid to be reinstated to the Labour Party after he was suspended over allegations of anti-Semitism.

A trio of former MPs have been axed as Labour candidates for the general election.

Chris Williamson, who was accused of anti-Semitism, and Stephen Hepburn, who was facing sexual harassment allegations, had their suspensions upheld by the party’s ruling National Executive Committee at a meeting on Wednesday.

Another former MP, Roger Godsiff, was also barred from standing despite not being suspended, one source said.

Ex-Birmingham Hall Green MP Godsiff had been ‘triggered’ for reselection by his local party after he gave his backing to demonstrators who oppose lessons for young children on same-sex relationships.

It is understood that Labour chief whip Nick Brown recommended Godsiff should not be endorsed by the party on the grounds that he had rebelled four times against the whip earlier this year on Brexit votes.

Godsiff, a Leave supporter, was one of a number of rebels who voted against the party line and refused to back an Yvettee Cooper move to delay Brexit in February.

Deputy leader Tom Watson warned the NEC meeting that the grounds for barring Godsiff could end the party in court. He pointed out that Corbyn had broken the whip 500 times and had always been readopted as a candidate.

The fate of veteran former minister Keith Vaz - who was suspended from parliament for seeking drugs for sex workers - remains unresolved. Vaz is currently in hospital and a special panel will make the final decision in coming days.

Williamson had come under heavy criticism for downplaying anti-Semitism within the party, after saying Labour had been “too apologetic” in response to criticism.

Nick Lowles, of the Hope Not Hate campaign group, said Williamson had repeatedly been guilty of “trolling the Jewish community”.

“We welcome the NEC’s decision to effectively exclude him from standing as a Labour candidate. It is deeply depressing that this was even a possibility. Chris Williamson has no place in the Labour Party whatsoever,” he said.

The former Derby North MP was first suspended in February but was readmitted with a formal warning following a hearing of an NEC anti-Semitism panel in June. But the resulting outcry led to him being suspended again. 

The Jewish Labour Movement welcomed the news but said it did not mean that Labour’s handling of anti-Semitism cases had been vindicated.

Hepburn, was also barred by the NEC following his own suspension for alleged sexual harassment, as first revealed by HuffPost UK.

The ruling body has yet to rule on other former MPs who had been ‘triggered’ for reselection by their local parties. Emma Lewell-Buck and Kate Osamor want to become Labour candidates again.

PA Archive/PA Images
Stephen Hepburn, representative for Jarrow, during a photocall for Labour MP's at The House of Commons, Westminster.

The NEC has yet to decide on the case of Keith Vaz, whose candidacy hangs in the balance following a damning parliamentary standards investigation found he had offered to buy cocaine for sex workers.

Vaz, who has been MP for the past 32 years, was last week given a six-month ban from parliament after an investigation found his testimony was “not believable and, indeed, ludicrous”. 

Letters of support for him were submitted to the NEC, but shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said last week he should consider his position and step down.

The former minister and chair of the home affairs select committee was investigated by parliamentary standards watchdogs over a 2016 encounter he had with sex workers. The Daily Mirror reported that he had pretended to be a washing machine salesman called Jim.