Hodge and signals

Submitted by AWL on 2 October, 2019 - 12:28 Author: Martin Thomas

On 28 September, the result was announced of a “trigger ballot” in Barking Labour Party.

Votes were sufficient for Margaret Hodge, the Labour MP for the constituency, to face an open selection contest for the next election.

Only one “trigger ballot” had previously reached the threshold for an open selection, so many left-wingers across the country were pleased to see one more.

It is not so simple, though. Hodge first became prominent as the “soft left” leader of Islington council in the 1980s but has been a Labour right-winger since the late 1990s at least.

In May 2019 she was reported by the Sunday Times as advocating votes for “pro-EU” candidates (Lib Dems, presumably) in the Euro-election. She then denied it. “What I was trying to say was... I can understand why people are voting tactically. But I would never advocate voting against the party.”

However, what Hodge is best-known for now is speaking out against antisemitism in the Labour Party. Whatever the excesses of her language, she has been speaking on a real issue, and for real reasons, not just as a device to do down Corbyn.

The odds are that no full selection contest will happen, because a general election is so near. The Labour Party machine has halted selection contests in seats where they were already underway. Candidates are likely to decided by the NEC [National Executive Committee], with the Leader’s Office playing a big part behind the scenes.

If a Barking selection goes ahead, then Hodge is likely to win. The local Labour Party says that 55% of ward votes and 90% of TU votes opposed “triggering”.

But the NEC could take the “trigger ballot” as a mandate to replace Hodge. Replacing Hodge either way would signal a move to silence or marginalise protest against antisemitism in the Labour Party.

According to Jon Lansman of Momentum: “I’m told it [the triggering] happened because members on the Right had expected her to retire and want an MP who actually lives there, not one who has always lived in Islington... the Left is most certainly not behind the triggering”. The Skwawkbox blog, on the opposite pole of the loosely-defined Labour left, gives a similar report: “While the left in Barking is relatively weak, two senior right-wing figures coordinated the move – and that the trigger motion only carried because of their supporters…”

Evidently not on the cards is Hodge being replaced by a left-winger as outspoken against antisemitism as she is.

For a symbol of protest against antisemitism (though not the symbol we’d wish for) to be pushed out by the NEC and Leader’s Office, or by local right-wingers, would be a setback.

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