Margaret Hodge: Jeremy Corbyn ‘now perceived by many as an anti-Semite’

Margaret Hodge: Jeremy Corbyn ‘now perceived by many as an anti-Semite’

Jewish Labour MP defends calling the party leader an anti-Semite in Guardian article, after Labour says it will discipline the veteran politician

Dame Margaret Hodge MP
Dame Margaret Hodge MP

A senior Jewish Labour MP has defended her decision to confront Jeremy Corbyn over the party’s response to anti-Semitism.

Dame Margaret Hodge, who faces action from the party over the incident in Parliament on Tuesday night, said the Labour leader was “now perceived by many as an anti-Semite”.

She claimed Labour had come to be seen as “racist” by millions of voters, and accused the party’s leadership of “arrogance” in failing to address the problem.

Dame Margaret, who lost family members in the Holocaust, challenged Mr Corbyn behind the Speaker’s chair in the Commons following the adoption by Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee of a new code of conduct on anti-Semitism – which has been widely denounced by Jewish groups.

Mr Corbyn’s spokesman branded the Barking MP’s remarks “clearly unacceptable”.


Giving her version of Tuesday night’s events, Dame Margaret wrote in the Guardian: “I confronted Jeremy Corbyn in Parliament and told him to his face what I and many others are feeling.

“Under his leadership the Labour party is perceived by most Jews, thousands of party members and millions of members of the public as an anti-Semitic, and therefore racist, party.

“As our leader, he is now perceived by many as an anti-Semite.”

She added: “I chose to confront Jeremy directly and personally to express my anger and outrage. I stand by my action as well as my words.”

Dame Margaret condemned the party’s refusal to listen to critics in the Jewish community about the response to anti-Semitism.

“The arrogance displayed by the Labour leadership takes one’s breath away,” she said.

Dame Margaret added: “Under Jeremy’s leadership, the Palestinian/Israeli conflict has been allowed to infect the party’s approach to growing anti-Semitism.

“It appears to have become a legitimate price that the leadership is willing to pay for pursuing the longstanding cause of Palestinians in the Middle East.

“Because of that, anti-Semitism has become a real problem in the Labour Party.”

Labour’s NEC did not include within the new code of conduct the full definition of anti-Semitism – including illustrative examples – set out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

Dame Margaret said that by refusing to fully adopt the definition Labour “chose to offend Jews” and make the party a “hostile environment” for them.

Before Dame Margaret’s Guardian article was published, Mr Corbyn’s spokesman indicated the party was already considering unspecified disciplinary action.

He said that it would be taken under Parliamentary Labour Party procedures requiring MPs to behave in a “respectful” way towards colleagues and not to “bring the party into disrepute”.

He said that Mr Corbyn himself would not be a complainant in any case brought against the veteran MP and former minister.

“Under the terms of PLP rules, behaviour has to be respectful between colleagues and not bring the party into disrepute,” said the spokesman.

“The behaviour was clearly unacceptable between colleagues. Jeremy’s door is always open to discussions with members of the PLP. Action will be taken.”

But Labour MP Wes Streeting suggested the “action” being taken should be a “fulsome apology to Margaret and the Jewish community for the flagrant disregard shown for their concerns”.

Dudley MP Ian Austin said: “Imagine if Jeremy and his team were as quick to take action against the people responsible for racism as they are with the people complaining about it.”

And Luciana Berger said that when Dame Margaret speaks about the problem “people should listen and act rather than condemn her”.

Labour’s NEC signed off the code at a meeting on Tuesday, but members agreed to reopen the development of the policy in recognition of the “serious concerns” raised.

Mr Corbyn’s spokesman insisted that Labour’s definition of examples of anti-Semitic behaviour had diverged from the IHRA wording only in order to make it more appropriate for use by a political party.

“The Labour Party anti-Semitism working group drew up a code of conduct which incorporates and builds on and clarifies those examples and expands on them so that they can be used effectively for a political party, including in disciplinary cases,” he said.

It states that criticism of the state of Israel and its policies should not automatically be regarded as anti-Semitic, and makes clear that even “contentious” comments on this issue “will not be treated as anti-Semitism unless accompanied by specific anti-Semitic content … or by other evidence of anti-Semitic intent”.

The code explicitly endorses the IHRA’s working definition of anti-Semitism and includes a list of behaviours likely to be regarded as anti-Semitic copied word-for-word from the international organisation’s own document.

But it omits four examples from the IHRA list:

– Accusing Jewish people of being more loyal to Israel than their home country;

– Claiming that Israel’s existence as a state is a racist endeavour;

– Requiring higher standards of behaviour from Israel than other nations; and

– Comparing contemporary Israeli policies to those of the Nazis.

Labour insisted that while the examples are not reproduced word for word, they are covered in the new code.

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