Margaret Hodge. Photo: Wikimedia Commons Margaret Hodge. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The only appropriate response to Margaret Hodge and her co-conspirators is to take them on politically and defeat them argues Alex Snowdon

The Labour Party’s decision to drop disciplinary proceedings against Margaret Hodge has generated a furious backlash. The backbench MP’s vitriolic outburst at Jeremy Corbyn – calling him “a fucking antisemite and a racist” – is viewed by Labour Party members as unacceptable conduct. But it is also widely recognised that it served a political purpose. It was part of a renewed attempt to weaponise allegations of antisemitism in order to weaken the Labour leadership and its project of moving the party to the left. 

The decision gives the impression that there is one law for right-wing MPs and another law for ordinary Labour Party activists. It makes a mockery of talk of democratising the Labour Party when right-wing politicians can do what they like – with no fear of accountability – while Corbyn-supporting grassroots activists are held to very different standards, and disciplined and slandered when they slightly deviate from them.

Hodge has used the occasion to reiterate her baseless allegations. She is using it to try to rally the Labour Party behind a campaign to delegitimise opposition to racist Israeli apartheid, as well as destabilising the party’s left-wing leadership. This comes in the context of a debate about specific aspects of the Labour Party NEC’s proposed code on combating antisemitism. Hard-right elements in the Parliamentary Labour Party are determined to insert statements that falsely link the charge of antisemitism with opposition to Israel as a racist apartheid regime. 

Margaret Hodge’s solicitors have even written to Labour Party officials to reprimand them for claiming that Hodge has expressed regret for her comments. Hodge insists that she stands by her comments and has no regrets, saying it is untrue that she has apologised for her verbal abuse of Corbyn. It is clear that Hodge and her supporters regard the Labour Party’s abandonment of disciplinary action as vindicating her attacks. 

Leading figures from the left of the Labour Party need to abandon efforts to ‘spin’ what has happened and should instead challenge and confront the right wingers who are determined to break the left. The only appropriate response to Hodge and her co-conspirators is to take them on politically and defeat them.

We should not underestimate how determined some MPs are – or what lengths they will go to in order to undermine their own party. New reports suggest that a layer of MPs on the party’s right wing are willing to work with centre-right Tories and Lib Dems to stop a left-led Labour Party forming a government.

The strategy of conciliation with those who are seeking to smash the left and destabilise the Labour Party has failed. The party’s general secretary Jennie Formby and her allies believed that a behind-the-scenes deal with Hodge would put the matter to rest. This approach rested on a drastic underestimation of the commitment of some in the PLP to wrecking Labour’s elected leadership – and the politics that leadership represents. It also rests on an underestimation of their ideological commitment to the defence of Israeli apartheid.

This cannot be resolved through compromise, especially when that compromise involves just one side sticking to its side of the bargain. Nor can it be resolved through private manoeuvrings. Furthermore, it is a serious mistake to become trapped in the realm of disciplinary procedures. 

There is a profound political disagreement over Israel’s racist apartheid regime. That means there is a premium on winning the political arguments. It is also necessary to expose the motivations of right wingers destabilising Corbyn’s leadership. Instead of seeking a conciliatory deal that will never satisfy them, their attacks need to be challenged openly - and defeated.

Alex Snowdon

Alex Snowdon is a Counterfire activist in Newcastle. He is active in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition and the National Education Union.​ He is the author of A Short Guide to Israeli Apartheid (2022).