Margaret Hodge has become the second Labour MP to be triggered by her local Labour party to face a full parliamentary selection process, as the party’s ongoing row over anti-Semitism comes to a dramatic head.
Hodge, a Labour veteran who has been the MP for Barking since 1994, has been a prominent critic of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the party, and one of the most vocal campaigners against its handling of allegations of anti-Semitism.
Her trigger ballot process re-opens an ugly, bitter wound in the party over its attitude towards anti-Semitism and a broader debate over whether there is a place in the party for those nearer the centre who do not naturally align with the views of the leadership.
For some in the Labour Party this evening, this development sends what they see as a welcome message to MPs that their membership strongly backs Corbyn: Hodge’s criticism of the leader has been unequivocal, typified by a recent comment that she is “not going to give up until Jeremy Corbyn ceases to be leader of the Labour Party.” One figure close to the leadership describes today’s move as “a wake-up call [to MPs] to listen to their CLPs”. They also defend the tougher ballot process as a means of maximising democracy. “Each CLP should get to decide at each election who their candidate is,” they argue. “Being an MP shouldn’t be a job for life”.
For many in Labour, however, that this process has ended up targeting a long-serving Jewish MP is simply “shameful”, particularly as Hodge has “repeatedly stood up against anti-Semitism and been absued for it”, as one Labour source puts it.
Harriet Harman, a former deputy leader of the party, has said tonight that she is “dismayed more than I can say by this.” Another senior figure remarks: “I imagine the worst people in the party are cheering tonight.”
As reactions spread to Hodge’s triggering, Labour looks set to be embroiled in a bitter row in the coming days. Meanwhile, many simply express frustration that this is happening at all, as the party gears up for an increasingly inevitable general election with a very visibly divided party.