UK Labour drops move against Jewish MP who accused Corbyn of anti-Semitism

Party’s secretary general tells Margaret Hodge no further action will be taken; she denies she apologized for her conduct

Labour MP Margaret Hodge discusses numismatics on November 22, 2007. (CC BY Portable Antiquities Scheme, Flickr)
Labour MP Margaret Hodge discusses numismatics on November 22, 2007. (CC BY Portable Antiquities Scheme, Flickr)

Britain’s Labour Party said Monday it will take no action against a Jewish MP who called party leader Jeremy Corbyn an “anti-Semite and a racist,” amid a simmering scandal that has harried the party in recent weeks.

Labour’s General Secretary Jennie Formby wrote to Margaret Hodge to say an investigation into her conduct had been completed and no further action would be taken, a Labour Party source confirmed to the Jewish Chronicle.

It was not clear what form the investigation had taken, or whether in fact the charges against her had simply been dropped.

On July 17, 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.”

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves the stage after delivering an address at Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, May 24, 2018. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images via JTA)

She said: “You have proved you don’t want people like me in the party.”

“I’m sorry you feel like that,” Corbyn reportedly responded.

“It is not what you say but what you do, and by your actions you have shown you are an anti-Semitic racist,” Hodge then said.

In a piece for the Guardian newspaper later that week, Hodge said Labour 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 Monday 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 also insisted she had not apologized. And she stressed that she had not received any apology from the Labour Party for its actions against her either.

However, a Labour source told the Jewish Chronicle that Hodge had written to Chief Whip Nick Brown “expressing regret.”

The Campaign Against Antisemitism said in a statement that Hodge confirmed “that she did not apologize in any way and that the Labour Party capitulated nonetheless.”

On Friday, Hodge shared a letter from Formby, dated July 25, which stated that if the MP gave “an appropriate apology for her conduct,” the probe would be discontinued.

Posted by Margaret Hodge on Friday, August 3, 2018

In a letter dated August 3, Hodge’s lawyer stressed that his client would not apologize, and therefore the party must either provide the legal basis for its investigation, or drop the probe entirely.

“Our client will not tolerate this threat of investigation being hung over her head indefinitely. You have offered one way out: an apology. Our client will not apologize,” the lawyer wrote. “Given this, you must now either proceed with the investigation, providing the information requested and a full timetable, or you must unconditionally drop it.”

Hodge, who has been a member of Parliament for the party since 1994, 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 over the past year.

Fellow MP Ian Austin was also facing disciplinary action and possible suspension from the party, after accusations that he swore at party chairman Ian Lavery during a “heated discussion” about Labour’s failure to tackle anti-Semitism.

The Jewish Chronicle understood that the investigation into his conduct was still ongoing.

Gideon Falter, Chairman of Campaign Against Antisemitism said, “The Party must now apologize to Dame Margaret and immediately drop its action against Ian Austin as well. We remain convinced that Dame Margaret was right to call Jeremy Corbyn an ‘anti-Semite’ and that under his leadership the Labour Party has become institutionally antisemitic and an existential threat to British Jewry.”

Last month, the party’s ruling body and leadership endorsed a code of conduct that excluded several of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance examples of anti-Semitism.

The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is the benchmark for countless organizations, as well as 31 countries, including the US, Canada, Germany, France, and the UK itself.

The party has come under fire from Jewish members of Labour and the British Jewish community for not adopting the full definition — particularly several items that define anti-Semitism masquerading as legitimate criticism of Israel.

The Guardian said Monday that the party was preparing to accept three of the four examples from the IHRA, which had been excluded. However, it reportedly did not want to endorse the example that states, “claiming that the existence of the state of Israel is a racist endeavor” over concerns that it would stifle legitimate criticism of the Jewish state.

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