Corbyn’s ill-judged reaction to Margaret Hodge’s comments may just become his undoing

by Rob Marchant

Jeremy Corbyn has really not had a good week. It was the week when the dam really finally burst on anti-Semitism, with the PLP wholeheartedly rejecting the party’s “doctored” definition of anti-Semitism,   one-third of British voters surveyed thinking him an anti-Semite and an unprecedented and scathing joint editorial on the front page of the UK’s three most prominent Jewish newspapers, condemning Corbyn. But more of that later. On Tuesday, he also finally came out as a full-blooded Brexiteer.

Over the last two years, Jeremy Corbyn has increasingly irritated Labour’s Remainers (who, according to überpollster Prof. John Curtice, are actually in the majority in the party nationally and not just in London, as many previously thought), by his disingenuous attempts to ride two horses at once over Brexit.

And somewhat inexplicably, he has chosen this moment, when everything is going spectacularly badly, to “come out” for Brexit and try to sell its “benefits”.

His “British jobs for British workers” 1970s schtick may resonate with some Labour voters, yes (let us not forget that Gordon Brown once tried much the same). However, apart from the economic illiteracy of the approach, toughness on immigration is not actually the vote-winner it once was, as the latest Social Attitudes Survey now shows.

In fact, in view of the recent Cabinet turmoil over Brexit and dire warnings arriving from all quarters about the possibility of No Corbyn could scarcely have timed his “coming out” as a Leaver worse.

No, one of Corbyn’s many problems as leader is that his judgement is hardly consistently good.

On that note, let us turn to the issue of his spat with Margaret Hodge. The spectacular own goal of allowing his acolytes to attempt the rewriting of a perfectly serviceable definition of anti-Semitism reeked of bad faith and caused a huge backlash two weeks ago.

This may be because, as some have pointed out, both spokesman Seumas Milne and Corbyn himself might easily have fallen foul of the existing definition as a result of past actions (the Internet is, after all, forever).

But instead of reacting to conclusively fix the problem, Labour’s leadership first waffled about “consultation”, and has now decided to go further and double down.

As a result, veteran backbencher Margaret Hodge last week collared Corbyn in the Commons and told him he was “a racist and an anti-Semite”.

He could easily have chosen, as John McDonnell is apparently now suggesting he would like to (let’s see if that happens), to put the conversation behind the Speaker’s Chair down to a “robust exchange of views” and let it lie.

Instead, he chose to up the ante with Margaret Hodge, by his spokesman insisting that she would be “disciplined”, thereby ensuring that (a) Jewish organisations stepped in immediately to defend her, and (b) the story would stick around for much, much longer.

Corbyn then completed the act of judiciously painting himself into a corner by stating his inability to intervene in the process (as if). Thus neatly removing any justifiable reason for the process to be dropped.

Let us now look at the choice of enemy he has just made.

Dame Margaret Hodge, MP, is not an amateur. She is one of very few heavyweights left on the Labour benches: she ran an inner London council for ten years; spent 9 years as a Minister of State; chaired the influential Public Accounts Committee for a further 5 years; and, in and among, saw of the neo-Nazis of the BNP in Barking. And, of course, she is Jewish and lost family in the Holocaust.

This last fact is important only because it makes this all personal and an absolute point of principle. But even were that not the case, the politics is right and the profile is right to take on Corbyn.

The real question now is, if the Leader’s Office is suddenly happy to let sleeping dogs lie, will she? A quick calculation would say a resounding “no”.

First, why take the formidable step of confronting the Leader of the Opposition if you would immediately back down thereafter? If it was not a ditch you were prepared to die in?

Second, she is seventy-four in a matter of weeks. She may decide to stick it out another term but, at this point, it would be unusual. After thirty-odd years of big jobs, she has had a good innings and is visibly winding down. Fair enough: she’s earned it, after all.

But she still clearly packs a punch. And now she has a mission, one which has caught many people’s imagination. It might even be one broader than saving the Labour Party from anti-Semitism: it might be saving the Labour Party from Jeremy Corbyn (although some might reasonably feel these to be the same thing).

Third, it’s clear that most of her younger colleagues have not the wile, the gravitas nor the cojones to pull off what she’s now attempting. The letter her lawyers, Mishcon de Reya*, sent to Jennie Formby was one of consummate professionalism. The message was less one of meek submission, more “come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough”.

In short: Corbyn may just have bitten off more than he can chew this time. And, as American Beauty might have taught us: never underestimate an MP with nothing to lose. This is likely to be a very serious battle indeed for Corbyn and quite possibly a mortal one.

* We might also note that it was the self-same firm hired by Deborah Lipstadt, when she successfully destroyed the reputation of anti-Semitic historian David Irving – a fact that has already had the Corbynite, anti-Israel fringe going into fits of conspiratorial apoplexy (apparently they have links to Israel, the bounders!).

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour party manager who blogs at The Centre Left

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20 Responses to “Corbyn’s ill-judged reaction to Margaret Hodge’s comments may just become his undoing”

  1. greggo says:

    Another tiresome piece by merchant. Devoid of any debate , just regurgitated bull sh*t . Nothing else going on in that vacuum packed head of his .

  2. John P reid says:

    love the fact you put in red Jeremy’s british job for british workers, then when I clicked on the link Jeremy had said noting of the sort, if you’d wanted a better way to criticise Jeremy for his real quote, you could have pointed out being back manufacturing was something Michael Gove said in his leadership

    regarding more labour voters ,voting remain, we need more brixters to win a eleciton in areas like Newcastle and Essex,maybe some Lexiters have quit the party over anti semtisim maybe over obsession with identifying victims and so called minorites, but blair started the rot on identity politics ,and also the large scale immigration that cuased brexit

  3. Doc M says:

    Don’t get the American Beauty reference.

  4. Vern says:

    Corbyn is only effective when he is opposing, something he has made a career out of and becoming a millionaire along the way. When he has to make decisions or take actions he freezes because he has no experience.

    If you can pull your biased heads out of your backsides and imagine what Corbyn would be like as a Prime Minister it ia a genuinely frightening prospect.

  5. steve says:

    Rob: ” saw of the neo-Nazis of the BNP in Barking”

    Clearly, Rob was not there.

    Hodge received a bouquet from the BNP for validating their policies.

    It was anti-racist groups such as Hope not Hate that did all the heavy lifting to defeat the BNP.

    Hodge could only scuttle around the constituency, knocking on doors but avoiding conversations, instead imploring: “Hold your nose and vote for me.”

    It was a pitiful sight.

  6. Vern says:

    And there you have it Richard MacKinnon sufficient evidence that the hate is within the fan base as well as Labour’s senior leadership team.

  7. John P Reid says:

    Richard Mkinnon, interesting that’s the first time I’ve heard the word alleged put before victim in regarding if an incident is to be treated as a hate incident the (alleged victim) says so

    great, as if an accuser is a victim before an inquiry or jury find so it mans the accused is a perpetrator and that leads to guilt till proved innocent which is against the HRA, surprised no one has ever called the mcpherson report out especially hate incident as being guilty till proved innocent or guilty when proved innocent

  8. John P Reid says:

    Richard Mkinnon, interesting that’s the first time I’ve heard the word alleged put before victim in regarding if an incident is to be treated as a hate incident the (alleged victim) says so

    great, as if an accuser is a victim before an inquiry or jury find so it mans the accused is a perpetrator and that leads to guilt till proved innocent which is against the HRA, surprised no one has ever called the mcpherson report out especially hate incident as being guilty till proved innocent or guilty when proved innocent

  9. John P Reid says:

    Steve, theres many policies the BNP have that are acceptable to the Labour movement, they were against Iraq, Afghanistan, I’d cards, want to re nationalize stuff and build council homes
    Hodges policy was of the council housing people nearbwhere their relatives live which can apply to BAME people, luckily Hornchurch and Upminster labour gave hope not hate about ten grand to help them get their leaflets out in Barking, but then the council wards seats that Hodge inheritred were Dagenham ones and ,on knowing thee were gonna be boundary changes it was Dagenham. Party not doing much that saw them go to the BNP in the first place, but credit to those who stood for the election, a high BAME population who moved in,it should have been labour, but labour took the vote for granted, at least we haven’t had Libdem Billy Bragg taking credit,he came doen once got his name in the paper called the white working class racist for voting BNP, did more harm than good and then cleared off back to his manision, ehat people forget is how well the BNP did in the 2008 mayoral election on the assembly there.

  10. Richard MacKinnon says:

    Vern, July 30, 2018 at 7:00 pm.
    I dont understand your comment. Please explain.

    John P Reid, July 30, 2018 at 9:10 pm.

  11. steve says:

    @John P Reid.

    It was Hodge’s ‘homes for natives’ proposal that was rewarded with a BNP bouquet.

    New Labour relied on the market to address the housing crisis. When the market failed scapegoats had to found…

  12. John P Reid says:

    A hate crime is any incident the victim says it is- but under innocent until proved guilty an accuser isn’t a victim till a jury/ inquiry says so , so they’re an accuser, for there to be a victim there has to be a perpetrator ,if the accuser is called the victim before a guilty verdict, it means the accused is the perpetrator before there’s a proved.guilty Verdict ,as if this happens we’d have guilty till proved innocent

    A hate incident is where the judiciary decides there was no crime but it’s still recorded as a hate incident, so that definition is guilty when proved innocent

  13. John P Reid says:

    landless peasant thanks for putting up those blogs ,now SKwarkbox has been discredited ,it’s nice to know there’s still some vile Trotskyites out there who blatantly lie to cover up their horrid views and can convince themselves that its not true when it blatantly is

  14. Vern says:

    Richard, the Web link you provided shoes comments doubting this anti-semitic news and blaming anyone else other than Corbyn and McDonell.
    The party has changed under their stewardship and it’s neither kinder or fairer and it certainly isn’t for the many.
    Corbyn clearly has issues – who in their right mind hosts an event comparing Nazis and Israel on World Holocaust Day.

  15. Richard MacKinnon says:

    Corbyn is many things but he is not an anti semite. He maybe niaive, out of his depth, a useless leader, but his principles and beliefs are sound.
    He believes the treatment of the Palestinian people by The State of Israel is an atrocity as do many others including many Jewish organisations worldwide.
    He has never been a political pragmatist. He never thought he would be leader of the Labour Party. His support for the Palestinian cause has taken him into places others in his position would not go.
    I am not a Labour supporter but I believe Corbyn is a decent man and I am uncomfortable with the scale and personal nature of the attack he is subjected to.
    I think eventually he will submit to these attacks and stand down. If that happens British and global politics will be the worse for it.

  16. Vern says:

    There was a time Richard when I may have thought the same. However, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck then it probably is a duck. The stories will continue to spill out too as people unearth 30 years of his hate of everything that doesnt fit his vision of Marxist utopia.
    His own party want him gone now as damage limitation and even the overtly biased Guardian has become increasingly distanced from him in recent months.
    It will get worse, of that we can be sure and global politics will be rid of one of the greatest charlatans ever.

  17. Adrian Hewitt says:

    The only opinion poll on the issue of anti-Semitism I have seen is one by YOUGOV which showed Tory voters where more likely to be anti-semitic than Labour voters.The survey also showed that anti Semitism in the Labour party had decreased significantly since Corbyn had become leader. Funny how this is never mentioned in the media.

  18. Vern says:

    Adrian Hewitt – I call bullshit. It’s never mentioned because it’s not the case.

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