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.
There's a huge debate in the Labour Party right now about antisemitism (again, just as Labour are ahead in the polls funnily enough). The current furore is over the acceptance of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. Labour have accepted the definition but changed the working examples so there is scope for political debate about Israel. You can read more about it here.
According to Jennie Formby, General Secretary of the Labour Party, the NEC Code takes the IHRA Working Definition and supplements it “with additional examples and guidance”, thus creating “the most thorough and expansive Code of Conduct on anti-Semitism introduced by any political party in the UK”. Similarly, Jon Lansman, a fellow member of the NEC, calls the Code “the new gold standard” for political parties, “stronger than anything of its kind adopted by any political party in this country”. The Code, he says, “fully adopts the IHRA definition, and covers the same ground as the IHRA examples” but goes further, making it more workable. That is the view from the inside."
The Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) were unhappy with this and on Monday 16th July passed a motion calling on the National Executive Committee (NEC) to drop the code of conduct proposals. On Tuesday 17th July, the NEC refused to allow a vote on the proposals instead deciding to consult more Jewish groups over the Summer. A Labour spokesperson said:
“The NEC upheld the adoption of the code of conduct on antisemitism, but in recognition of the serious concerns expressed, agreed to reopen the development of the code, in consultation with Jewish community organisations and groups, in order to better reflect their views.”
However, Margaret Hodge, a member of the pro-Israel / generally anti-Corbyn Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), was seemingly incensed by this. According to witnesses she approached Jeremy Corbyn after the Trade Bill votes on Tuesday evening and said to him:
You're a fucking anti-Semite and a racist. You don't want people like me in the party."
To which Corbyn is reported to have replied calmly:
I’m sorry you feel like that.”
Corbyn's office has since said that action will be taken.
Twitter exploded, with certain justification. The PLP are quick to jump on abuse from alleged Corbyn supporters and refer to it time and again in the media, yet here is a member of the PLP verbally abusing the leader of the party. When it comes to the language she used, it is interesting to compare it to when Catherine Starr applied to join the Labour Party to vote in the 2016 leadership contest. Her application was famously rejected because of a post on Facebook which said:
I fucking love the Foo Fighters"
Therefore, Corbyn supporters were understandably irate about Hodge's verbal abuse. The whole situation stank of rank hypocrisy. From the abuse angle and from the swearing angle.
The next day's response of the right wing of the PLP, including many members of LFI, was a co-ordinated tweet-a-thon about how Margaret Hodge saved her constituency, Barking, from the BNP.
So... Did Margaret Hodge actually save Barking from the British National Party (BNP)? In 2006 the BNP won 11 of the 13 seats it contested in local elections, after which there were calls for Hodge to be deselected and by 2010 had they had 12 seats. In 2007 Hodge assimilated the rhetoric of the BNP around the housing issue in particular, in much the same way as the Tories have assimilated the rhetoric of UKIP to hoover up their support since Brexit. She called for social housing policy to take account of length of residence, citizenship and national insurance contributions.
We should look at policies where the legitimate sense of entitlement felt by the indigenous family overrides the legitimate need demonstrated by the new migrants"
This garnered praise from BNP councillor, Richard Barnbrook:
I am indebted to you for having the gumption to tell the truth about housing allocation"
and he reportedly wanted to deliver flowers to her for supporting BNP policy.
The Labour Party however, were horrified:
There is no evidence whatsoever that immigrants are causing a problem with social housing. My problem with that is that's the kind of language of the BNP and it's grist to the mill of the BNP."
Housing is allocated according to need and it is disingenuous for Margaret Hodge to suggest otherwise. The problem is lack of housing supply and it's a shame she wasn't so vocal in the campaign for the building of more council housing"
It is not fair for her to play one group of people off against another. Margaret Hodge is missing the point. The problem is clear, there are not enough council houses to meet the demand."
In 2010 Nick Griffin, the BNP leader himself, contested the Barking seat and came third with 6,620 votes compared to Hodge's 24,628. Did she see him off? Or did she attract enough of his voters by pandering to BNP rhetoric? Or perhaps credit should instead be given to the multicultural voters of Barking, where turn out was high, thanks to Labour campaigners, for not voting for Griffin. Indeed, Griffin himself blamed the high turnout for placing him at a disadvantage and for leading to all 12 council seats being lost.
As for Liz Kendall's tweet saying Hodge has "fought tax dodgers" and for women's rights, it has perhaps slipped her memory that in 2013 the Telegraph headline was:
and if you were to dig further back to her time as leader of Islington Council:
We also shouldn't forget she has form for haranguing Corbyn - from the being one of the instigators in the letter of no confidence in 2016 to this in Islington in 1995:
Imagine disliking someone so intensely for so long then they become leader of your party. How that must stick in her gullet. However, it's no excuse for the hypocritical verbal abuse which should now be dealt with - with the severity that Labour Party members using similar language, in abusive and non abusive situations, have been dealt.