Starmer must remain on 'consistent journey' over tackling antisemitism, warns Dame Margaret Hodge

Veteran Labour MP says the lifting of Corbyn’s suspension last month ‘took us backwards’


Dame Margaret Hodge has warned Sir Keir Starmer that he must remain on a "consistent journey"  in his attempts to rid Labour of antisemitism, adding that the lifting of Jeremy Corbyn's suspension from the party last month "undoubtedly took us backwards".

The veteran Labour MP has admitted she came close to quitting the party after learning that a disciplinary panel was ready to reinstate Mr Corbyn having accepted the former leader's apology, which, she said, “was full, absolutely full, of weasel words."

Revealing that she was shown Mr Corbyn's statement to Labour's disputes committee an hour before it met to approve his return to the party, Dame Margaret said: “I was devastated. I was absolutely devastated. It was weaselly words.

"I was very heartened by the way Keir has approached the whole of this terrible scourge on our party in the time he has been leader -  this undoubtedly took us backwards.

"I would have found it difficult to remain within the party because I just didn't know what else to do.

"I'd stayed in the party all those years when Corbyn was leader and thought my fight was changing the party by changing the leader.

"I can't live in a party that tolerates antisemitism. That has got to be rooted out, which is what Keir has committed himself to and I have committed myself to supporting him in doing that. But that has to be a consistent journey - he can't waver from it."

The JC revealed last month how the Barking MP had spoken with the Labour leader and expressed her anger at the decision to reinstate Mr Corbyn on November 17.

The following day it was confirmed that after an intervention from Sir Keir and Labour's chief whip Nick Brown, a decision had been taken to remove the party whip from Mr Corbyn.

But speaking at a Cambridge University Union Labour Panel event, Dame Margaret said she was "completely taken aback" by the decision to allow the ex-leader back into the party just 19 days after he was suspended.

She did not suggest he should have been automatically expelled for his decision to challenge the findings of the EHRC report into antisemitism after it was published in October, but she added: “All we want is for him to accept responsibility for what went on. To actually say sorry. 

"Not a conditional 'sorry if you feel offended' - say 'I am sorry for what I did.'

"Also accept in its entirety the EHRC report and don’t keep saying it is  exaggerated . In his statement he said, 'I support Keir, who has accepted the report', which is a very different thing to say."

The Jewish Labour Movement's parliamentary chair also rejected claims that the fight against antisemitism in Labour was an attempt to end the party's traditional "broad church" of views.

"I do want people out - I want them out if they are anti-Jew racists,"  she said. "I joined the party on the basis that it was a party that fought racism.

"I still say to some of my friends who say 'can't you shut up about this' - I say 'would you be saying that to me if I was black?'

"There is something that is acceptable within too much of the Labour Party about anti-Jew hatred. 

"I don't want those people in the party. But in terms of the broader politics,  I'm always up for debate and I think that's healthy, particularly in a two-party system."

Also speaking at the Cambridge Union event titled ‘Dissent and Discord in the Corbyn Years’  was Lord John Mann, the government's independent adviser on antisemitism and the former Labour MP for Bassetlaw.

Lord Mann claimed that many of the people announcing they were leaving Labour "are the hardcore who are obsessed with the antisemitic theories that they've half dreamt up over the last few years - and good riddance to them."

He added: “The sooner they are all out the better because it makes the Labour Party more electable. That's helpful. 

"But actually it leads to a tolerance of debate in the Labour Party.  That means whatever people's political views they get a decent hearing."




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