Action will be taken against Labour MP Margaret Hodge over a tirade in which she allegedly called Jeremy Corbyn an anti-Semite, a spokesman for the Labour leader has said.
Dame Margaret reportedly 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.
The Huffington Post reported that Dame Margaret told him: “You’re a f****** anti-Semite and a racist … You have proved you don’t want people like me in the party.”
Mr Corbyn reportedly told her: “I’m sorry you feel like that.”
Labour later confirmed an incident had taken place, but Dame Margaret has yet to comment, though she has reportedly denied swearing.
Mr Corbyn’s spokesman branded the Barking MP’s remarks “clearly unacceptable”.
He declined to reveal the precise nature of the action being brought against Dame Margaret, who is herself Jewish and lost family members in the Holocaust.
But 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.”
- OPINION – Adam Langleben: Tackling Labour’s institutional anti-Semitism can’t be done by the Party
- OPINION – David Hirsh: Understanding Labour’s disavowal of the IHRA definition
- Protesters to return to Parliament Square over Labour anti-Semitism code
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.”
A series of Labour MPs have publicly vented their fury about the NEC’s failure to include within the new code of conduct the full definition of anti-Semitism set out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
Former leader Ed Miliband said the “vast majority of the Jewish community” agreed that the definition should be used in full and urged the NEC to do so “at speed”.
Labour’s National Executive Committee 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.
Labour officials drew up the code in the wake of protests by Jewish groups outside Parliament earlier this year.
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.