Margaret Hodge's lawyers could take Labour row to next level

Letter sent by Mischon de Reya from Labour MP to the party is a statement of intent, says Lee Harpin

July 26, 2018 10:28

The letter sent by law firm Mishcon de Reya on behalf of Margaret Hodge to the Labour Party’s general secretary on Monday was not merely a vigorous and detailed attempt to defend their client — it was also a statement of intent.

Labour had made, the letter said, a “veiled attempt to silence” the Jewish MP after her confrontation with Jeremy Corbyn and a subsequent disciplinary investigation had been launched without the party setting out exactly what accusations Dame Margaret faced.

Following reports she had allegedly sworn at the Labour leader, the letter also stated that the use of bad language “is vehemently denied, and our client is aware of multiple witnesses who can testify that she did not swear”.

The law firm said Labour had failed to explain the rule that the party claimed she had breached.

“Your threat to suspend our client if she repeats this non-particularised conduct appears to be a veiled attempt to silence her,” the letter added.

“Again, it is a fundamental breach of natural justice and principles of fairness.

“You have left our client in the bizarre position whereby possible suspension is hanging over her for future unspecified behaviour.”

The Mischon letter does not hold back from ridiculing the party’s efforts. After raising the issue of an “abuse of power” it moves on to add: “The haste with which you sent your letter is reflected in the sloppiness of its contents, which defies recognised standards of due process relating to investigations.”

From a firm renowned for its tough approach, the letter batters senior Labour figures with legal points to which the party of opposition would appear to have little comeback.

“You must ensure that the prejudicial media briefing which has accompanied (or in fact preceded) the notice of investigation being sent to our client now stops, failing which the fairness of the proceedings will be further, and gravely, undermined.”

But there was another more covert message for Labour’s leadership contained in the document.

Eighteen years ago Anthony Julius, now Mischon’s deputy chairman, represented American author and academic Deborah Lipstadt in a libel case brought by Holocaust denier David Irving.

In a triumph for Prof Lipstadt, her book publishers and for Mr Julius, the defence was successful and the judge’s ruling in the High Court in April 2000 that Irving was a racist and a Shoah denier are now seen as one of the most significant findings in British legal history.

Mischon’s latest letter can be seen as a warning shot to the Labour Party and its leader.

In picking on a widely-respected, fearless veteran Jewish MP who took on and defeated the British National Party in her constituency, and then faced down corporate executives and HMRC as the head of a key Parliamentary select committee, Mr Corbyn and his allies may have bitten off more than they can chew.

July 26, 2018 10:28

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