Barking MP Dame Margaret Hodge slams Jeremy Corbyn as antisemitism investigation announced

Margaret Hodge MP. Picture: KEN MEARS

Margaret Hodge MP. Picture: KEN MEARS - Credit: Archant

Dame Margaret Hodge has slammed Jeremy Corbyn after a human rights watchdog launched an investigation into whether the Labour “unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised” Jewish people.

The Barking MP tweeted it was a "disgraceful day" for her party and accused its leader, Mr Corbyn, of failing to take antisemitism seriously.

On the announcement made today (Wednesday), the Jewish MP said: "It is unsuprising but depressing that the Equality and Human Rights Commission are now going to investigate the Labour party for unlawful discrimination against Jews.

"Myself and many other Jewish party members have faced a torrent of antisemitic abuse in recent years. This takes place at party meetings and events, but most often on social media.

"Sadly, there has been a surge in antisemitism within Labour since Jeremy Corbyn became party leader. He too often has a blind spot for antisemitism and fails to effectively challenge it.

"I joined the Labour party 56 years ago because it was the party of equality, tolerance and anti-racism. I and many others have spent the past few years relentlessly fighting antisemitism within Labour in order to protect these core values.

"I am particularly grateful to the local Labour party in Barking for all their support in this battle. I am proud that my local party has been a champion of tolerance and repeadedly stood up against all discrimination and hate."

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But Labour's general secretary, Jennie Formby, said complaints were linked to about 0.1 per cent of Labour's membership.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it had contacted Labour after receiving a "number of complaints" about allegations of antisemitism within the party, and had "carefully considered" their response before opening the probe.

The EHRC said the investigation would seek to determine whether "unlawful acts have been committed by the party and/or its employees and/or its agents" and if the party has "responded to complaints of unlawful acts in a lawful, efficient and effective manner".

Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson said he had "privately and publicly" warned the party it faced a "vortex of shame" if it failed to deal with anti-Semitism.

"I feel utter shame that this investigation is necessary but I truly hope that it will provide the means to finally root out anti-Jewish racism from our party once and for all," he said.

Labour said it would "cooperate fully" with the EHRC, and rejects "any suggestion that the party does not handle anti-Semitism complaints fairly and robustly".

A party spokeswoman said: "Labour is fully committed to the support, defence and celebration of the Jewish community and is implacably opposed to anti-Semitism in any form.

"We reject any suggestion that the party does not handle antisemitism complaints fairly and robustly.

"But the issue can only be properly dealt with by all political parties working together to protect the interests of the Jewish community and to combat racism in politics, the media and in society more broadly.

"That includes the need for the Conservatives and other parties taking action to deal with racism in their own ranks."

The EHRC is likely to request interviews with key figures in the party and will have the power to demand access to correspondence, emails and other information to determine how Labour dealt with allegations of antisemitic discrimination.

The body has no powers to fine or prosecute organisations following investigation, but can make recommendations or draw up a legally-enforceable action plan.

Separately, the Muslim Council of Britain has urged the EHRC to open an investigation into alleged Islamophobia within the Conservative party.