In Margaret Hodge - Part 3 we surmised that actually Hodge didn't want Labour to drop the action against her because she wanted the antisemitism story to stay in the limelight all Summer.
What happened on Friday 17th August, appears to back up this assertion. Hodge gave an interview to Sky's Beth Rigby, where she said this:
On the day that I heard that they were going to discipline me, and possibly suspend me, it felt almost like, I kept thinking, "What did it feel like to be a Jew in Germany in the thirties?" because if felt almost as if they were coming for me and it's rather difficult to define but there's that fear and it reminded me of what my dad used to say. He always said to me as a child, "You've got to keep a packed suitcase at the door Margaret, in case you ever have to leave in a hurry." And when I heard about the disciplinary, my emotional response resonated with that feeling of fear that clearly was at the heart of what my father felt when he came to Britain."
This was the first part of the interview that caused, arguably, the most uproar and rightly so. Hodge was likening what was effectively a disciplinary letter from her boss to the Nazis coming for Jews in the 1930s. A comparison that shocked many people in it's belittlement of the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany which led to the holocaust. It spawned the hashtag #HodgeComparisons which, you can see if you click through, divided Twitter as to whether it was a justifiable mocking of such a comparison or a bullying, nasty form of political discourse.
Labour's response to her interview was as follows:
"Jeremy is determined to tackle antisemitism in the Labour Party, so Jewish people feel it is a warm and welcoming home.
The next thing that caused offence was Hodge's reply to Rigby's question about what her relationship with Jeremy Corbyn was now like.
It's a very fine line between being pro Palestinian, the Palestinian cause which he's always believed in and being antisemitic and I think he's gone the wrong side of that line."
No. No there is not a fine line. It is perfectly possible to support the Palestinian cause, to defend and advocate for the human rights of all Palestinians, to support the Palestinians in their Great March of Return, to speak out against Israel's oppression against them and to advocate a two state solution without being at all antisemitic.
However, this is the tone of discourse that Hodge was determined to set and so she did, unchallenged.
Then there was this:
And I think it's a bit scary as well? We've got this, sort of, growth of populism, whether it's Trump, whether it's Boris Johnson, and now whether it's the cult of Corbynism, which allows these sort of attitudes to emerge and that's what scares me."
"The cult of Corbynism" - another planned narrative, a seed to plant into the minds of Sky viewers.
When asked if Labour should adopt the full IHRA definition of antisemitism, which of course is what this was all about, Hodge had this to say:
I think.. he's digging himself deeper and deeper into a pit, where the Jews just feel uncomfortable.. and I have to say to you that it isn't just the Jews Beth that feel uncomfortable with this, when I look at all the letters I've had, the emails, the ones that have been supportive, and there are thousands of them. It comes from what I would class / call "Middle England"? So people who just think, probably like I do, "Was it like this in the thirties? Isn't this a bridge too far? Shouldn't we step back from that?" So of course he's got to accept the definition, of course he's got to accept that definition. But even if he does that tomorrow, that will only be the start of a very, very, very long journey in rebuilding trust with the Jewish community.
Again, comparing Labour to Nazis basically and letting everyone know that even if Corbyn (actually the National Executive Committee as she full well knows) does accept the full IHRA definition that she and her allies will not let the matter drop and will keep antisemitism in Labour in the news for as long as they can, to cause as much damage as they can. Rigby didn't even challenge her on the fact that it is not a matter for Corbyn to decide on the definition but a matter for the NEC. This isn't about accuracy for Hodge however, it is about demonising and toppling Corbyn.
Rigby then questioned Hodge on Len McCluskey's recent HuffPost blog post where he compares what is happening in the party to McCarthyism. (His actual quote, for those of you interested, is, "While rooting out the anti-Semites, we cannot descend into a vortex of McCarthyism, however much Labour’s opponents might enjoy the spectacle")
That just shows what a terrible situation we are because I would put it to Len McCluskey that my receiving a letter saying they're starting disciplinary proceedings 11 hours after I had a perfectly legitimate conversation with the leader of the Labour Party in the lobby of the House of Commons, smelt to me of McCarthyism against people who oppose Corbyn and a purge against those people and I have to say, it felt to me like, OMG are they doing this to me because I'm Jewish? So it felt McCarthyist, McCarthyite against me and I don't see it the other way round at all. But doesn't that demonstrate the fact that Len McCluskey feels that he can say that, demonstrates the rift over the issue within the Labour Party, which as leader of the party, he has got to start healing that rift. That's his job, that's his responsibility. That's what he's leader of the Labour Party for."
Funnily, Hodge has just conferred leadership of the Labour Party onto Len McCluskey! Seriously though, no they did not do that to you because you're Jewish. You did not have a legitimate conversation with the leader of the Labour Party and the reason they did it was that you reportedly shouted at Corbyn:
You're a fucking anti-Semite and a racist. You don't want people like me in the party."
which would be an actionable offence in any place of work. Perhaps they also did it because you're not, in fact, a nice person (see Margaret Hodge, Margaret Hodge: Notice of Investigation, Margaret Hodge - Part 3) but it was in no way because you are Jewish.
In conclusion, this wasn't an interview it was a platform. You can watch it here. It was a platform where Hodge, as many times as possible referenced the Labour Party in terms of the antisemitism of Nazi Germany; where she deliberately conflated support for Palestine as antisemitism and stressed Corbynism as a cult with McCarthyite tendencies. She did this unchallenged by Rigby - an example of appalling journalism.
However, because of that first comparison, Hodge has shot herself in the foot. All that she will be remembered for in that interview is that she compared a disciplinary letter to Jews being persecuted in Nazi Germany. In a story that could have run and run - and it's clear that was her intention - it has suddenly gone silent with regards to Hodge. Let's hope that, from her at least, it's:
Following the Notice of Investigation, Margaret Hodge has continued making all her correspondence public. She tweeted this on Friday, August 3rd:
I won't embed all 15 tweets but if you click on this one you can read this letter from Labour plus the reply from Hodge's Silver Circle law firm.
On Monday 6th August, the complaint against Hodge was dropped. It appeared that an apology had been proffered to the Chief Whip of the Labour Party, accepted and that was enough to end the matter.
What a kick in the teeth for those denied a vote in the 2016 leadership contest for much less. Think back to those suspended for retweeting the Green Party or to Catherine Starr, denied a vote because of a Facebook post that said, "I fucking love the Foo Fighters". It stinks of double standards and hypocrisy and Labour members are justifiably angry.
It could be argued however, that, tactically, this has been the right thing to do. Labour have been under the media spotlight for weeks now over antisemitism, overshadowing Tory Islamophobia and the chaos that is Brexit. That Hodge herself is keen to keep it in the limelight points to the fact that she is not actually happy with the complaint being dropped. Perhaps the plan was to run with the story throughout recess so that Labour, with 12 MPs ready to resign the whip if the action continued, was in tatters by conference season. She has vociferously denied apologising for example.
The Skwawkbox have the following correspondence that refutes this claim:
It seems clear then, that Hodge wants to be kept in the limelight. In which case, it is fair to shine the spotlight on her in the hope that it becomes uncomfortably bright and hot.
Hodge's "defeat" of the BNP in Barking is covered here as is her tax hypocrisy. That she is an anti-racism expert / campaigner doesn't hold up to the facts and she has a nerve to accuse Corbyn of being a racist in light of her history. Added to her assimilation of the BNP's rhetoric for example, there is this about her hounding of the traveller community while she was Islington Council Leader:
While we have established therefore, her lack of credentials for calling out racism and tax avoidance, we haven't looked at the matter of the appalling child abuse scandal that went on while Hodge was in charge of Islington Council:
A noteable quote from this article summarises it well:
A local politician who had heard the gravest imaginable allegations about the maltreatment of children, refused to examine them on budgetary grounds, smeared a victim, attacked the newspaper that did its duty by investigating, and finally – after years of running for cover – offered the dismal excuse that people knew less about child abuse back then, became the national politician with responsibility for children."
People on Twitter have been digging a bit deeper though and here it starts to get even more murky. Let's turn up the spotlight.
NCCL stands for National Council for Civil Liberties, now known as Liberty. PIE stands for Paedophile Information Exchange. Yes, it really does and yes it really was affiliated with NCCL.
Whilst PIE was affiliated with it, the National Council for Civil Liberties (now Liberty) argued that photographs of undressed children should not be considered "indecent" - and therefore illegal - unless it could be proven that the subject had suffered harm or that an inference to that effect or to the effect that harm might have been caused could reasonably be drawn from the images themselves, with Harriet Harman (later deputy leader of the Labour Party) arguing that it would “increase censorship”
Flesh crawling yet? There's more.
There may be those who will argue, what does this have to do with the case that has just been dropped? Directly, nothing. However, Hodge is being held up to the public as a paragon of virtue. A dame no less, an unimpeachable senior Labour figure who must be listened to when she throws around accusations of racism with impunity. She won't let the current matter drop. She is making it as public and long lasting as possible for nefarious reasons, the least of which seem to be antisemitism and racism. It is justifiable therefore, to shine a spotlight on her to ascertain if the public can trust a person of her character as defined by her past (and present) actions. So far, the answer appears to be no.
Yesterday Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, aka Tommy Robinson, was released on bail while waiting for retrial on his contempt of court charges. This was greeted with jubiliation from his supporters, almost as if he had been proven innocent in some way.
There followed, this morning, interviews with two of the far right's commentariat on the BBC.
On Radio 4's Today programme there was Raheem Kassam - former editor in chief of Breitbart News London, former advisor to Nigel Farage when he led UKIP, a contester for UKIP's leadership in 2016 (he withdrew) and supporter of Yaxley-Lennon to the extent that he has been over in America raising money for Yaxley-Lennon's cause.
Whilst on Radio 5 there was Ezra Levant - founder and main contributor of The Rebel Media website and YouTube channel. The Rebel Media is a Canadian far right media platform for anti-Muslim ideology.
This is following hard on the heels of Steve Bannon being interviewed on Nigel Farage's LBC show, saying off air that Yaxley-Lennon (Robinson) was:
the f—ing backbone of this country. You lose guys like Tommy Robinson, you’re not going to have a country.”
Bannon, founder of Breitbart News (are you joining all the dots yet?) is one of the most vile, right wing fascists to hit our airwaves. He was also given airtime on Good Morning Britain on 13th July - being toadied to by Piers Morgan, as is his wont with the far right, which could be seen in his toadying over Trump. No shouting over Bannon as he does over other, usually more left wing, guests.
So, our airwaves, printed media, online media have been saturated with the far right lately. It's like there have been no lessons learned from Nigel Farage's media saturation, which involved 32 appearances on Question Time alone before we take into account any other show. When Nigel Farage first hit the media, he was treated with scorn and derision. David Cameron tried to brush UKIP off, calling them a bunch of
'fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists''
Boris Johnson said in May 2014 about the EU referendum promised by Cameron and the rise of UKIP threatening the Tory vote:
and so I say to all those toying with another self-styled Euro-sceptic party, whose MEPs notoriously slumber and snore through Strasbourg debates: You kip if you want to – the Tories are giving us the first chance to vote on Europe in my adult lifetime"
He also ended that article with:
it would be an utter disaster if we were to miss this chance by inadvertently ushering Miliband into power
I think I know what "disaster" is preferable right now.
Undoubtedly, the rise in media coverage of Farage and his party played it's part in Brexit and the rise in racism in this country. The more he was on TV, the more certain people said to themselves, "He's only saying what we're all thinking" so they were emboldened to say it themselves. Racism has increased, notably Islamaphobia although racism across the board. Some people no longer feel as if they can't say racist things any more and that it's absolutely fine to perform hate crimes such as pulling off Muslim women's hijabs.
Today Helen Dale tweeted
However, she is wrong, as these tweets counter:
As well as his party polling "the highest general election vote of any UK far-right party", Griffin himself won the most votes he'd ever had in a general election, 6,620, contesting Margaret Hodge's seat in Barking.
So Helen Dale, you are sadly wrong and if the media in this country doesn't learn from the vast amounts of historical evidence, racism and fascism in this country will continue to be legitimised in the eyes of Yaxley-Lennon and his supporters and will continue to rise. The media are currently enablers and will yet end up with blood on their hands.