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Lawyers for Barking MP Dame Margaret Hodge hit back at party probe into ‘antisemitism’ attack on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

PUBLISHED: 19:00 24 July 2018

From left: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Margaret Hodge, MP for Barking. Pictures: PA

From left: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Margaret Hodge, MP for Barking. Pictures: PA

PA

Lawyers for Barking MP Dame Margaret Hodge on Monday hit back at a disciplinary inquiry into her public attack on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The former minister branded Mr Corbyn an “antisemite and a racist” to his face in the Commons last week after the party’s ruling body adopted a new code of conduct on antisemitism denounced by many Jewish groups.

After receiving notice of the internal investigation, lawyers for the MP wrote to Labour general secretary Jennie Formby questioning the “fairness and legitimacy” of the process.

“Our client is deeply concerned that the ‘investigation’ has been opened without thought and in an attempt to silence her,” read the letter from law firm Mishcon de Reya, calling it “hasty (and ill-thought out) disciplinary action against her, the result of which appears to be pre-determined.”

“The haste with which you sent your letter is reflected in the sloppiness of it contents, which defies recognised standards of due process relating to investigations,” it read.

The letter alleges that a spokesman for Mr Corbyn briefed the media “in more detailed terms than those [...] sent out to our client”. It goes on to say the public debate surrounding her comments has “led to ongoing and serious abuse being levelled against our client”.

The tirade from Dame Margaret — who describes herself as a “secular, immigrant Jew” — is the latest in an ongoing dispute over the party’s attitude towards antisemitism: prejudice or discrimination towards Jewish people.

A string of Labour MPs have condemned the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) for not including within the new code the full definition of antisemitism set out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

While the code endorses the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism and copies attitudes likely to be viewed as antisemitic verbatim, it does not include four examples from the IHRA’s own list, which the party insists are still covered.

NEC members approved the code last week, only to reopen the policy citing “serious concerns” raised.

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn previously called Dame Margaret’s comments “clearly unacceptable”, vowing: “action will be taken”.

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