A CONTROVERSIAL event with suspended Labour MP Chris Williamson took place in Brighton last night, having previously been cancelled three times.

Mr Williamson, suspended by the Labour Party for alleged anti-Semitism, was due to speak at a Brighton venue about a “socialist economy” alongside the auctioning of a banned Steve Bell cartoon.

But the Derby North MP was forced to address a crowd of about 150 in Regency Square, opposite the i360, after the event was blocked by three separate venues.

Campaigners against anti-Semitism branded the event “Jew baiting”.

But organisers, including pro-Corbyn activist Greg Hadfield, said it was to resist “the wave of assaults on the party and the importance of protecting freedom of speech”.

The Argus:

Mr Williamson was suspended in February after saying Labour had “given too much ground” in a remark about the party’s handling of anti-Semitism.

The event also billed the auction of a signed version of a controversial Steve Bell cartoon which The Guardian refused to publish.

In it, Labour deputy leader Tom Watson is depicted as an “anti-Semite finder general”.

Speaking to a cheering crowd at about 7.30pm, some of who are also suspended from the Labour Party, Mr Williamson said: “The sun always shines on the righteous.

“The reason they attack us, the reason they call us names, is that they dare not face our arguments.”

The Argus:

The Brighthelm Centre, the original host, cancelled the event hours after its announcement following an intervention by Hove MP Peter Kyle.

He said: “Our city should not be a welcoming place for people who bait the Jewish community or sow seeds of division.”

The Holiday Inn on Brighton seafront then agreed to hold the event, but pulled out the same day because of threats to staff, according to organisers - though the hotel refused to confirm this.

It was announced on the day of the event that the Brighton Friends Meeting House, run by Quakers, was to host it.

But it was cancelled hours later.

A Twitter post from Quakers in Britain said: “Anti-Semitism, as with all forms of racism, contravenes our fundamental belief that all people are equal and precious”.

Hours before the controversial MP was due to speak - and with no planned venue - hopeful attendees waited with baited breath outside the Odeon cinema in West Street.

Meanwhile, campaigners against anti-Semitism, who had planned to protest at the Brighton Friends Meeting House, gathered outside the town hall instead, unaware when or if the event was taking place.

The Argus:

CREDIT: Gary Perlmutter

One protester, Quaker Richard Pendleton, said: “My granddad went into Belsen concentration camp shortly after it was liberated, it feels like a moral obligation for me to be here.”

Another protester, Jewish Simon Cobbs, said: “If it had just been Chris who was to come down, it would have been offensive.

“But the fact it’s Chris and the auctioning of the cartoon, it feels like an exercise in Jew baiting.”

Speaking with The Argus, event goers, who did not want to give their names, said: “As a Jew I found Peter Kyle's attempt to suppress open democratic discussion offensive.

Another said: “We are living in very dangerous times - the most dangerous in my lifetime.”

More than a 100 people gathered in Regency Square as the microphone was eventually switched on.

Organiser Greg Hadfield made an impassioned - and somewhat tearful speech - pinning the blame for the outside venue on Peter Kyle.

“It’s like a rave in the 1990s,” he later joked.

Speaking to a cheering audience, Mr Williamson stayed largely away from alleged anti-Semitism within the party, and spoke at length about socialist policies and grassroots campaigning to “carry Jeremy over the threshold of number 10”.

Cartoonist Steve Bell did not attend and it did not appear that his controversial cartoon was auctioned.

But a picture of Mr Williamson and Mr Hadfield holding the cartoon before the event was posted online.

The Argus:

Another speaker, after Mr Williamson, said campaign group Momentum was “enabling” the suspensions of Labour members and called for a “new democratic alliance”.

Hove MP Peter Kyle said: “Thank goodness that’s over and those who came to our city to sow hate or division have gone, leaving us in peace to once again focus on the great things about summer life in our sanctuary by the sea.

“Free speech is a precious right and when people use it to unsettle, threaten or damage the wellbeing of any part of our community, I will always be here to stand resolutely against it.

“The community I work for expects nothing less.”

The Sussex Jewish Representative Council added: "The bottom line is that we will not tolerate any form of racism or bigotry in this city - antisemitism is no different.

"It must be challenged wherever it is seen."