Labour MP Chris Williamson has apologised after he said the party has been “too apologetic” over anti-Semitism.
But Tom Watson, the party’s deputy Labour leader, said the “long-winded and heavily caveated apology” was not good enough and Williamson should be suspended from the party.
Williamson, the Derby North MP, told a meeting hosted by grassroots group Momentum in Sheffield on Saturday that the party had “given too much ground” over accusations of racism.
The party has so told him to say sorry, but has stopped short of kicking him out.
In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, Williamson said he was “sorry for how I chose to express myself on this issue within our party”.
“I deeply regret, and apologise for, my recent choice of words when speaking about how the Labour Party has responded to the ongoing fight against anti-Semitism inside of our party,” he said.
Theresa May told Jeremy Corbyn during PMQs that his ally should be suspended from Labour.
Labour MP Ruth Smeeth said Williamson should be expelled. “The man’s a disgrace. Those views are incompatible with the aims and values of the Labour Party. He has no place in my party. He should leave,” she said.
Sadiq Khan, the Labour mayor of London, has said Williamson’s comments were “grounds for suspension”.
In the video, unearthed by the Yorkshire Post, Williamson said: “The party that has done more to stand up to racism is now being demonised as a racist, bigoted party.
“I have got to say I think our party’s response has been partly responsible for that because in my opinion … we have backed off on too much, we have given too much ground, we have been too apologetic.”
Williamson also said he had celebrated the resignation of former Labour MP Joan Ryan, who also defected to join The Independent Group of MPs last week, saying he had sung Celebration by Kool & The Gang after hearing of Ryan’s resignation.
A Momentum spokesperson said: “The Labour Party have called on Chris Williamson to apologise and we welcome that call.
“MPs should be held to the highest standards, and we trust that Labour’s General Secretary and Chief Whip will determine an appropriate course of action moving forwards.”
The Jewish Chronicle also reported today Williamson said Labour was acting like the “Stasi” in its response to the anti-Semitism crisis.
Williamson was embroiled in another anti-Semitism row on Tuesday, after it emerged he had booked a room in parliament on behalf of Jewish Voice For Labour for a screening of a new film about activist Jackie Walker.
Walker has been suspended from Labour after after saying “many Jews were chief financiers of the slave trade” and for comments at the party’s 2016 conference, revealed by HuffPost in 2016, and is still awaiting a hearing.