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Margaret Hodge: Corbyn critic to face reselection battle after local party vote

One of Labour’s most prominent Jewish MPs is facing a fight for her political career after activists in her local party voted to trigger a reselection ballot.

Margaret Hodge clashed with the party leadership last year after calling Jeremy Corbyn an antisemite, but a disciplinary case against her was later dropped.

She vowed to fight to hold on to her position as election candidate for Barking in east London, where she has served as MP for 25 years.

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Saturday’s vote was denounced by the Jewish Labour Movement as a “shameful” moment for the party which could not have happened without a “toxic atmosphere and culture of denialism” over antisemitism.

But a party source said: “There’s nothing to suggest this has anything to do with antisemitism. Many members wish to hold democratic selections so they can have a say in who represents them.”

Changes to party rules adopted last year made it easier for activists to unseat MPs, with the “trigger ballot” threshold dropped from 50 per cent to 33 per cent of local branches and affiliated unions.

It is understood that six branches of the Barking party voted for Dame Margaret to remain their candidate against five wanting her to face a deselection ballot of all local members.

She is the latest in a string of centrist MPs to face left-wing campaigns to remove them, though other prominent Corbyn critics like deputy leader Tom Watson and Neil Coyle have seen off the threat to their positions. The only other MP forced to undergo a reselection vote – in which  the incumbent has an automatic right to a place on the ballot paper alongside rival candidates – has been Diana Johnson in Hull North, where the antisemitism row was not an issue.

Several MPs have complained that the process has taken campaigning resources away from the battle against Conservatives over a crucial pre-election summer.

Dame Margaret said she would fight to win the majority she needs in a ballot of all local members in order to stay on as candidate in the election which could come within weeks.

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“I am obviously disappointed,” she said. “My priority remains serving the people of Barking, as I have done for the last 25 years.

“At a vital time for the country, with a general election looming, we should be focusing our efforts on holding Boris Johnson and the Tories to account.

“I will work to secure the full backing of Barking Labour Party, so I can continue to play my part as their MP in doing that.”

Jewish Labour Movement chair Mike Katz said: “This is a shameful moment for a Party which claims to embody the values of equality and diversity. She has been the target of vicious smears, derision and antisemitism because she has been resolute in her opposition to anti-Jewish racism.

“This takes place at the same time that the party are being investigated for unlawful discrimination by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.

“This could not have happened without the toxic atmosphere and culture of denialism that has gripped the party. Engineered by the party’s leadership, it has been enforced by a sordid coalition of fake news, factionalism and the frontbench.

“Margaret is a doughty fighter, and JLM will be right alongside her over the coming weeks.”

A Labour Party spokesperson said: “Under longstanding party rules, reselection processes have to be held in between general elections. This has happened before every general election since 2001, apart from the 2017 snap election.

“These are taking place in every Labour-held constituency across the country and in any reselection sitting MPs are automatically on the ballot paper.”

Article source: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/margaret-hodge-reselection-corbyn-barking-antisemitism-a9124706.html

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