Margaret Hodge, Labour Party Member of Parliament and chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) .
(photo credit: ANDREW WINNING/REUTERS)
The UK Labour Party has dropped a disciplinary investigation into Jewish MP Dame Margaret Hodge, following outrage from the Jewish community and Labour moderates about the investigation and the antisemitism imbroglio the party is currently caught up in.
Hodge angrily told Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to his face he was an “antisemitic racist” in the House of Commons after Labour’s National Executive Committee last month adopted parts of an internationally accepted definition of antisemitism but excluded several key clauses.
Just 12 hours later Hodge was informed in a letter by Labour’s general-secretary Jennie Formby that she was being investigated for breaching the party’s rules of conduct, leading to outrage that the party was acting so swiftly against her whilst it has dragged its feet in taking disciplinary action against its members who have made antisemitic comments or participated in antisemitic events.
Formby wrote to Hodge on Monday to tell her that the investigation had been dropped, but seemingly implied that this decision was taken in light of a supposed apology Hodge made to the Labour chief whip over the matter.
Hodge posted her lawyer’s response to the general secretary which said that while the decision was welcomed “the basis on which you seek to explain your belated volte-face is entirely disingenuous,” and insisting that the MP had made no such apology.
“You have entirely misrepresented our client’s discussions with the Opposition Chief Whip in a cynical attempt to save face in your necessary climb-down,” her lawyer asserted.
Hodge said on Twitter that she was pleased the party had dropped the investigation.
“After 55 years of LP [Labour Party] membership, going after me instead of addressing the issue was wrong. In 2018 antisemitism that has again reared its ugly head and the campaign against it goes on,” the MP wrote.
She added that the Labour Party “must adopt” the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism in full to start rebuilding trust with the Jewish community.
Another Labour MP, Ian Austin, was also given notice that he was being investigated for fiercely berating a fellow MP and the Labour Party chairman in the House of Commons over the same issue.
It is unclear if his investigation will also be dropped.
The Labour Party has been mired in a furious row over how it has tackled numerous incidents of antisemitism among its membership, culminating in the adoption in July of the incomplete IHRA definition, which has been accepted in full by the UK government, regional councils and authorities across the UK, and another 30 countries.
Following the outrage from the Jewish community, Jewish Labour MPs and Labour moderates, as well as massive media scrutiny, several new incidents of antisemitic behavior have occurred within the party.
Following strong criticism by Labour deputy leader Tom Watson of Corbyn’s handling of the antisemitism within the party, Labour National Policy Forum member George McManus wrote on Twitter on Monday that “Watson received “£50,000+ from Jewish donors. At least Judas only got 30 pieces of silver.”
McManus has now reportedly been suspended by the Labour Party pending an investigation.
And just over a week ago, a recording of close Corbyn ally Peter Willsman was published by The Jewish Chronicle in which he referred to some members of the Jewish community as “Trump fanatics” and accused people making allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party of having fabricated such charges.
“So I am not going to be lectured to by Trump fanatics making up duff information without any evidence at all,” said Willsman.
“So I think we should ask these 70 rabbis, where is your evidence of severe and widespread antisemitism in this party,” he continued in reference to a letter by 68 UK rabbis from across the denominational spectrum criticizing the Labour Party for its handling of antisemitism.
Willsman subsequently apologized and disciplinary procedures against him were dropped.