A veteran Jewish lawmaker in the British Labour Party who last year called leader Jeremy Corbyn an anti-Semite will have to run in a local primary to keep her seat after losing a key party vote Saturday.
Dame Margaret Hodge, who has served as MP for Barking in London since 1994, will face a reselection vote, her local constituency party decided.
“I am obviously disappointed. My priority remains serving the people of Barking as I have done for the last 25 years,” Hodge told the Huffington Post. “At a vital time for the country, with a general election looming, we should be focusing our efforts on holding Boris Johnson and the Tories to account.”
According to the Guardian, new rules in the Labour party mean a reselection contest can be triggered if a third of local party members vote in favor.
Reselection allows parties to replace MPs by opening the door for other party members to run for the seat in a primary election. Labour has been accused of using the procedure to purge anti-Corbyn elements from within its ranks.
Mike Katz, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, expressed his dismay at the vote, saying that Hodge has been “a steadfast campaigner against racism, fascism and intolerance throughout her political life.”
“She saw off the BNP in Barking, and has over the last few years been determined in her opposition to antisemitism within the Labour Party,” Katz said, referring to the far-right British National Party, which once had a strong presence in the east London ward.
Last year Hodge confronted Corbyn in parliament after the party adopted new guidelines on anti-Semitism which have been criticized as too weak and falling short of a widely accepted formulation. Speaking inside the parliament chamber, but out of range of media, Hodge told Corbyn he was an “anti-Semite and a racist.”
The Labour Party later said it decided to take no action against Hodge, who said the leadership’s response to Jewish concerns over anti-Semitism in the party had been dismissive and arrogant, and its decision to soften the internationally accepted definition of the term was infuriating.
Hodge tweeted at the time that she was pleased no disciplinary action would be taken against her, but insisted the party was wrong for attacking her, rather than addressing the issue of anti-Semitism.
Hodge is Jewish and lost family members in the Holocaust. She has spoken in parliament about suffering from anti-Semitic attacks on social media and elsewhere.
Corbyn has come under prolonged attack — including from within Labour — for allegedly allowing anti-Semitism to spread in the party and for initially refusing to adopt fully the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism in its code of conduct.
An event held on the sidelines of the UK Labour Party annual conference this week included a raffle for signed copies of two cartoons that were rejected from publication over concerns they could be anti-Semitic.
The event, organized by the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) activism group, also featured speeches by party members who have been either expelled or suspended for anti-Semitism controversies.
Labour has grappled with anti-Semitism accusations since its far-left leader Corbyn was elected party chief in 2015. Fresh scrutiny arose this year after a BBC program in which a number of former party officials accused him and his allies of interfering in efforts to address the issue.
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