John McDonnell: Margaret Hodge attacked Jeremy Corbyn because she 'misunderstood' Labour anti-Semitism rules

Posted On: 
25th July 2018

Margaret Hodge called Jeremy Corbyn a "racist" because she failed to understand the new anti-Semitism code of conduct drawn up by Labour bosses, John McDonnell has said.

A major anti-Semitism row is raging in the Labour party
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The Shadow Chancellor said the veteran MP had “lost her cool” based on a “complete misinterpretation” of the proposed new rulebook.

A furious row is raging in the party after its ruling National Executive Committee decided not to fully adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of anti-Semitism.

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Supporters of the move argue members should have more freedom to criticise the Israeli state but critics say the decision gives a free pass to anti-Jewish racism.

Veteran MP Mrs Hodge - who lost relatives in the Holocast - faces disciplinary action after she challenged Mr Corbyn to his face in the Commons and called him "an anti-Semitic racist".

But Mr McDonnell said her outburst was based on a failure to recognise the true meaning of the rule changes.

"There was a complete misinterpretation of the code so I can understand why she was so angry if that is what she had believed this code would have done,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

"Through a complete misinterpretation - she’ll admit it - she was extremely angry, lost her cool and I understand why she did now on the basis of that misinterpretation.

"Now I think is the time to stand back, resolve this amicably and move on."

Mr McDonnell said the row was a “distraction” from solving the anti-Semitism issues in the Labour party, and revealed Jeremy Corbyn has asked Labour chief whip Nick Brown and general secretary Jennie Formby to resolve the row with Mrs Hodge "amicably".

Karen Pollock, the chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, blasted Mr McDonnell for his "disingenuous" account and urged him to "punish the racists, not those calling it out".

Meanwhile, PoliticsHome revealed last night that a former treasurer of Jeremy Corbyn's local Labour branch had quit over the row about the new code of conduct.

Russell Smith-Becker said he was "no longer sure that the Labour party is a force for good" over its attempts to tackle anti-Jewish abuse.

Labour has accepted the central IHRA definition of anti-Semitism but has rejected four of its examples of abuse - including saying Jews are more loyal to Israel than their home country and drawing comparisons with Nazisim.

Labour MPs will hold a ballot in September on incorporating the full IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, along with its accompanying examples, into its standing orders. It is expected to pass comfortably.