Margaret Hodge: Abuse and bullying in Labour is just like the 1980s
A senior Labour MP has compared the “dirty politics” being thrown at Jeremy Corbyn’s opponents to the turmoil which gripped the party in the 1980s.
Margaret Hodge revealed this morning she has had to refer two anti-Semitic emails to the police, and said people around the Labour leader were “indulging” abuse.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell pointed out that Mr Corbyn had been the subject of death threats himself and attributed the tensions to wider problems in the country rather than the party.
Ms Hodge, who helped launch the leadership challenge against Mr Corbyn by bringing forward a vote of no confidence, said the team at the top of Labour had to step in to stop MPs being “intimidated, bullied, harassed”.
Her comments come the day after a brick was thrown through the window of leadership challenger Angela Eagle.
“If this is the new kind of politics it is a dirty politics that I want no part of,” Ms Hodge told the Today programme.
“Bricks being thrown through windows, people being called ‘scum’, people being insulted, people being bullied, people being intimidated.
“I yesterday for the first time in my 50 years of political life had to refer two really offensive emails I received, anti-Semitic emails, to the police.
“This is not the new politics; it’s actually the old politics, it’s the politics I fought in the 1980s when people like John McDonnell and Ken Livingstone again were in leadership roles; it was a politics of intolerance and bullying, intimidation; and at that time, actually, Nick, I remember an occasion when again I had people in a council chamber tearing up wood from the council chamber and hurling it at me.
“And my great feeling today is I’m seeing today in 2016 the same thing that I saw in the 1980s.”
Mr McDonnell said the messages sent to Ms Hodge were “appalling”, but he denied that there had been a surge in such intimidation since Mr Corbyn became leader.
“I don’t think it is anything to do with the Labour party as such; I think there is a political climate unfortunately which can be quite hostile,” he told Radio 4.
“The levels of abuse he [Corbyn] has suffered has been a disgrace, death threats after death threats. He’s not made a big fuss about that, he’s just carried on in his calm way and I have nothing but respect for him.
“But also what he’s done is he’s tried to lead by example and in addition to that he’s made it time and time again – and I have as well – clear that abuse should not be part of our politics and we’ll stamp it out wherever we can.”
Some MPs, including Ben Bradshaw, have tied the abuse to the pro-Corbyn Momentum movement.
But the group’s national organiser James Schneider insisted there was no link between Momentum and any of the incidents.
“Let’s be very clear: all harassment and intimidation is absolutely wrong and doesn’t have a place in politics, as Jeremy Corbyn has repeatedly said, as Momentum repeatedly says,” he said.
Those assurances were dismissed by Ms Hodge, who replied: “It didn’t happen before. It didn’t happen three years ago, it didn’t happen under the leadership of Ed Miliband.”