Church cancels event over fears it could be ‘very dangerous’
PUBLISHED: 14:35 14 October 2019
Chris McAndrew/UK Parliment
A church cancelled an event where MP Chris Williamson, who was suspended from the Labour Party, was due to speak.
Downham Market Methodist Church cancelled the event scheduled for Saturday, October 12, following concerns "it had the potential to cause disorder".
The suspended Derby North MP, who has been a key figure in the row over anti-semitism, was to speak at the West Norfolk church.
Mr Williamson lost a High Court action against his suspension from the party, which he claimed was unlawful.
Philip Wagstaff, who was the organiser of the event, said a new venue was found and the meeting went ahead on time.
He said: "As expected there was no trouble whatsoever, not even a raised voice. The only noise was loud applause for Chris."
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He said he was dismayed that the church had taken the decision it did and the meeting was called for Labour supporters, and those of other parties, to hear what Mr Williamson had to say about the current and future state of the Labour Party.
Reverend Maurice Stafford, of Downham Methodist Church, said: "In our standing orders and our rules if an event is seen as detrimental to the life of the community we have to cancel.
"We made a judgement that it would be detrimental if it was to go ahead.
"At the time of the booking we were given the name and told Chris Williamson would speak. But because he is not our local MP we did not know who he was and what he was going to speak about.
"We were told it was a closed meeting, then it would be an open meeting. Which we thought if it was open to anyone, there could be heckling and potential for it to be very dangerous."
Mr Stafford said that the controversy surrounding Mr Williamson led him to believe if the event went ahead it had the potential to cause disorder and cancelling the event would be best for the church and the community.
Robin Jamieson, secretary of the Labour party for South West Norfolk, said: "He could be wrongly accused and he still has the right to appeal. However there is a danger that his meetings could become a gathering point for others who are hostile to Jews, and to the Labour Party.
"I am trying to get in touch with the Jewish community to reassure them that as secretary of the Labour Party for South West Norfolk I take anti-semitism personally and will not tolerate it."