Jeremy Corbyn misled me and his 'inner circle' interfered in Labour antisemitism cases, Margaret Hodge claims

Senior MP also questions independence of Lord Falconer – the party's choice to oversee allegations

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 05 March 2019 10:40 GMT
Margaret Hodge on Jeremy Corbyn's 'inner circle' accused of interfering in cases of antisemitism in Labour's ranks: 'What is so awful about this is that Jeremy always proclaims zero tolerance of antisemitism'

Jeremy Corbyn either "intentionally misled" an MP or was misled by his own team over Labour's handling of accusations of antisemitism in the party's ranks, Dame Margaret Hodge has claimed.

The senior MP also made the allegation the Labour leader's "inner circle" had interfered in such cases, as she questioned the independence of Lord Falconer – the party's choice to oversee complaints.

It follows a tense meeting of Labour's parliamentary party on Monday evening, with MPs expressing concern at the appointment of one of Mr Corbyn's allies in an administrative role within the party's independent complaints unit.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, the Jewish MP said she had been given "absolute, copper-bottomed undertakings" last week during a meeting with Mr Corbyn that there was "no interference in the complaints process by his inner circle".

Dame Hodge, who has repeatedly clashed with Mr Corbyn, and described him as an "antisemite" during an angry clash last year, continued: "What we then discover from The Observer on Sunday, and I have seen further emails, is that a whole number of his top team – not just one person, lots of them – are involved in decisions around individual complaints and what they do is they interfere and they lower the sanctions so people aren't suspended, they are just given a warning letter.

"What is so awful about this is that Jeremy always proclaims zero tolerance of antisemitism. When it comes to the actual cases, if they are his mates his doesn't demonstrate zero tolerance.

"He claims no political interference in these cases. I have now seen so much evidence there is definitely political interference. So trust in him has gone. Misleading me, or himself being misled, really undermines my trust for him."

Labour has since insisted it is "categorically untrue" to suggest that staff in Mr Corbyn's office overturned recommendations in cases.

It is understood the party's governance unit sought advice from an adviser in the leaders' office towards the end of Ian McNicol's tenure as Labour's general secretary in 2018, but insiders claimed there was no overturning or overruling of decisions.

Mr McNicol's successor, Jennie Formby, is also said to have ended this old system whereby advice was sought on individual cases from Mr Corbyn's team during her first week in the role.

But Dame Hodge added: "I've got evidence that under the new general secretary of the Labour Party those very close to Jeremy Corbyn – his inner circle – were involved in discussing cases of terrible antisemitic abuse and lowering how those people were dealt with.

She also described the appointment of Lord Falconer as the party's independent reviewer in such cases as "inappropriate".

"I am disappointed that you appear to be going ahead and appointing him anyway," she added. "I do not have trust in his independence in this role."

A Labour Party spokesperson said: "Since becoming general secretary, Jennie Formby has made procedures for dealing with complaints about antisemitism more robust.

"Staff who work on disciplinary matters have always led on investigations and recommendations on individual cases. Any suggestion that staff in the leaders' office overturned recommendations is categorically untrue."

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