UK Labour MP says party has long way to go before winning back Jewish community

Margaret Hodge said the eruption of online hate that was directed her way after she identified Corbyn as an antisemite … was “horrible.”

By Algemeiner Staff

Long-time British parliamentarian and Labour Party member Margaret Hodge saidthat Labour still has a long way to go before winning back the faith of the Jewish community, and recounted the moment she realized former party leader Jeremy Corbyn was an antisemite.

Hodge, who is retiring from politics, attracted renown and — from Corbyn’s supporters — vitriol after she publicly called Corbyn an antisemite outside the House of Commons.

“I’ve known Corbyn since the ‘80s,” Hodge told i News. When Tom Bower, one of Corbyn’s biographers, in 2015 “asked me ‘Is Corbyn antisemitic?’ I said ‘no.’ I believed that he couldn’t be — until the evidence started to mount.”

She finally decided to speak out after Corbyn campaigned to weaken an official definition of antisemitism.

When she heard the news, “I was pretty furious,” Hodge said. “I was standing there with two young men on either side, both of whom were hostile to Corbyn and I said, ‘I am going to tell him he is an effing antisemitic racist.’”

But “the last thing I said to myself was, ‘Don’t swear, that will only undermine your argument.’ So, I called him an antisemitic racist but without the f-word.”

Hodge said the eruption of online hate that was directed her way after she identified Corbyn as an antisemite — a view shared by the overwhelming majority of British Jews — was “horrible,” though support from her local party, particularly Muslim members, got her through.

“I’d never talked about my Jewish identity because it had never been part of my politics,” she said while recounting a speech to her constituents. “So, I just thought, well, I’ve got to just say it how it is and how we’ve got there. And I got a standing ovation.”

Hodge said that Keir Starmer, who became Labour’s leader after Corbyn led the party to a massive electoral defeat in 2019, is making progress in the party’s fight against antisemitism, describing him as a “bit higher up than basecamp.”

“I think we are close to the bottom in terms of winning back the trust of the Jewish community — we are much higher up in terms of reforming the Labour Party,” she said.

Nonetheless, she noted, Corbyn’s supporters within the party “are leaving in their droves.”

A poll released last month found that over 90 percent of members of the Jewish Labour Movement believe that Starmer is serious about purging antisemitism within the party, while 88 percent said Labour made “positive changes” against antisemitism in the past year.