Margaret Hodge: Corbyn misled me, or was misled, over antisemitism

Margaret Hodge: Corbyn misled me, or was misled, over antisemitism

The senior Labour MP has accused Jeremy Corbyn's "inner circle" of interfering in the outcome of antisemitism cases.

Dame Margaret Hodge. Photo credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Dame Margaret Hodge. Photo credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Dame Margaret Hodge has accused Jeremy Corbyn of deliberately misleading her on the extent of his office’s involvement in antisemitism cases, or of being mislead himself.

The senior Labour MP has accused members of the Labour leader’s “inner circle” of interfering in the outcome of antisemitism cases to reduce the sanction imposed.

She has also written to the Labour leader to set out her concerns about the party’s handling of antisemitism cases, following a damning report in the Observer on Sunday.

Labour insisted that it was “categorically untrue” to suggest that staff in the leader’s office overturned recommendations in cases.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she claimed she had been given “absolute, copper-bottomed undertakings” by Corbyn that there was “no interference in the complaints process by his inner circle”.

She added: “What we then discover from the Observer on Sunday, and I have seen further emails, is that a whole number of his top team – not just one person, lots of them – are involved in decisions around individual complaints and what they do is they interfere and they lower the sanctions so people aren’t suspended, they are just given a warning letter.

“What is so awful about this is that Jeremy always proclaims zero tolerance of antisemitism. When it comes to the actual cases, if they are his mates he doesn’t demonstrate zero tolerance.

“He claims no political interference in these cases, I have now seen so much evidence there is definitely political interference.

“So trust in him has gone. Misleading me, or himself being misled, really undermines my trust for him.”

She also questioned the plan for former lord chancellor Lord Falconer to be brought in to examine the issue, saying she did not believe he was independent and it could be a repeat of Baroness Chakrabarti’s inquiry, which critics branded a whitewash.

Dame Margaret said Lord Falconer had repeatedly urged her to apologise following a heated clash with Corbyn last year in which she called the Labour leader a “racist and antisemite”.

She said she was “absolutely bombarded by telephone calls from Charlie Falconer, they were not about the rights and wrongs of the case, they were all about trying to force me to give an apology – he is not independent”.

“We need somebody totally outside the Labour Party otherwise this becomes another Chakrabarti fiasco,” Dame Margaret said.

A Labour Party spokesman said: “Since becoming general secretary, Jennie Formby has made procedures for dealing with complaints about antisemitism more robust.

“Staff who work on disciplinary matters have always led on investigations and recommendations on individual cases.

“Any suggestion that staff in the Leaders’ Office overturned recommendations on individual cases is categorically untrue.”

But Dame Margaret said: “I have got evidence that under the new general secretary of the Labour Party those very close to Jeremy Corbyn, his inner circle, were involved in discussing cases of terrible antisemitic abuse and in lowering how those people were dealt with.”

Dame Margaret’s intervention follows a stormy meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party on Monday night.

Some Labour MPs reacted angrily to the appointment of a staff member from Corbyn’s office to the party unit dealing with complaints of antisemitism.

Following the weekly meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party at Westminster, MPs expressed concern that the move of Laura Murray – the daughter of long-standing Corbyn aide Andrew Murray – undermined the independence of the whole process.

Labour would not comment on the appointment, although a party source confirmed two junior staff members had been released from their roles in another part of the organisation to provide “administrative support on an interim basis” to the complaints team

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