Jeremy Corbyn accuses Margaret Hodge of ‘breach of trust’

Dame Margaret Hodge

Dame Margaret Hodge - Credit: Archant

Jeremy Corbyn has accused veteran Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge of a “total breach of trust” by recording a private meeting between them without his permission.

The Labour leader also defended the party’s handling of antisemitism cases following accusations by Dame Margaret that members of his inner circle interfered to reduce the sanctions that were imposed.

On Tuesday, Barking MP Dame Margaret claimed that Mr Corbyn had either misled her or been misled himself about the extent of his team’s involvement in such cases.

In a letter to the MP, Mr Corbyn acknowledged that a “very small group of staff” in his office were asked by the party’s governance and legal unit (GLU) to help clear the backlog of cases that had built up.

He said that in an “act of good faith” his staff had complied but that decisions remained with the GLU and that there had never been any attempt to overrule them.

And he reacted angrily to a suggestion that Dame Margaret had a recording of their meeting last week to discuss the issue, despite an agreement that it would be private.

“I was therefore extremely disappointed to learn on the (BBC Radio 4) Today programme that you have an audio recording of the meeting,” he wrote.

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“Neither me nor my staff were informed that you intended to record the meeting, my permission was not sought, nor granted. I consider this to be a total breach of trust and privacy.”

Mr Corbyn said the help provided by staff from the Leader of the Opposition’s Office (Loto) had been during the transition from former general secretary Iain McNicol to his successor, Jennie Formby.

“It would appear that during the transition period between Iain McNicol’s departure and Jennie Formby taking over, a very small group of staff in the leader’s office were approached by now former GLU staff members at head office, and were asked for help in clearing a backlog of cases,” he said.

“This help included a clear request for advice on a small number of cases. In an act of good faith, staff in my office complied with this request in order to assist the party.

“The decision-making remained with staff members from GLU, and there was never any attempt to overrule them.

“As soon as Jennie Formby started as general secretary, this process was overhauled, and advice from Loto Jeremy Corbyn was no longer sought on individual cases.”

Mr Corbyn also rejected criticism by Dame Margaret of the proposed appointment of former justice secretary Lord Falconer to look at the issue.

“Regarding the likely appointment of Charlie Falconer, Jennie Formby has been in positive discussions with him and considers him an entirely appropriate figure,” he said.

“I have received many communications welcoming him working on this issue with the party.”