The Barking case

JVL Introduction

The hysteria abroad on the right of the Labour party and in the mainstream media about reselection of MPs is calculated. Outrage that MPs on the right should be done out of a job for life, should be democratically accountable to the members who want them to reflect something of the politics of the base…

Margaret Hodge’s “triggering” had nothing to do with the left, as John Pawson makes clear. Rather, it is people fed up with her distance from her constituency and constituents and expecting her to retire and make way for others.

But why, asks Pawson, let the facts get in the way of a good story?

This article was originally published by LabourList on Wed 2 Oct 2019. Read the original here.

What really happened when Barking triggered Margaret Hodge

Forget what you’ve read in the press: as a member of Barking and Dagenham CLP, I can tell you Margaret Hodge has not been ‘triggered’ – i.e. made to face a full selection process – because of antisemitism. Funnily enough, neither she nor local members are claiming this is about antisemitism, and there has been no evidence produced to support this claim.

It’s also not a left-wing coup as the media have suggested. There are only about five or six of us lefties who attend CLP meetings. Hardly enough for a ‘takeover’. But why let the facts get in the way of a good story? Why should the press bother speaking to local people to get an accurate picture when they can get away with printing entirely baseless assumptions?

Our CLP isn’t prone to factional splits. Meetings are friendly, with a wide range of views expressed. People with differing views campaign side by side on the doorstep. The handful of us on the left didn’t really know how the trigger ballot system worked, and given the political make-up of the CLP, we all expected Margaret Hodge would be automatically reselected. The result was as much a surprise to us as it was to everyone else.

What I’m hearing is that this move has come from those in the CLP who have supported Margaret Hodge and share her political views but had expected her to retire and wanted an MP who lives in the constituency. Some of those members are no doubt keen to put themselves forward for the position.

Media reports about low turnout across the board are also inaccurate. My branch had 27 members present, and my friend’s branch had 30. And a handful of those on the left who may have voted along with the right did so because they believe members have the right to have a democratic say in who represents them. They think MPs should be accountable to their local members by seeking their support in a reselection, rather than automatically having a job for life, where they have no incentive to listen to the members who put them there.

I have a lot of respect for Margaret Hodge as a person, though I completely disagree with her views on our party’s transformative policies and on Jeremy Corbyn, whom I strongly support. But I find it deeply frustrating that my MP dedicates so much time to attacking our party and our leader, especially a time when we face the Tories crashing out of the EU without a deal, and when we’re up against a Prime Minister who shuts down democracy when it doesn’t suit him, whose comments have incited a 375% increase in hate crime, and whose list of potential crimes range from sexual harassment to corruption and misuse of public money. The stakes are too high for us to not be united as a party.

I hope that Barking and Dagenham can be allowed to resolve this issue ourselves, without interference from the press and social media speculators who don’t live here, don’t know anything about our community or our CLP, and don’t bother to check their facts because they know it will get in the way of the fictional story they want to publish.


John Pawson is a Labour and Momentum member in Barking.

Comments (7)

  • Martyn Wood-Bevan says:

    Excellent, honest article which exposes MSM and Right-Wing Labour collusion to unfairly attack the Labour leadership on utterly spurious grounds. Being dishonest AND verbally abusive towards/about the Labour Leader would have been reason enough for deselection, but nothing left-wing OR antisemitic about this.

  • Barbara shiels says:

    I think it’s disgracefull the wayCLPS have to defend themselves.
    People have a right to say who they want to represent them it’s gone to far.A election is ahead right wing labour mps complain about trigger Ballots and deselection.
    Where else do people enjoy a job for life.Only it seems on Labour backbenchers.

  • dave says:

    John, I get what you’re saying about left and right – I see it in my own branch and CLP – but can you spell out what policies rather than personalities the right don’t support? In other words was the 2017 manifesto not supported by most of the Labour group in Barking? (Note: Hodge 2017: 32,319 67.8% +10.1%)

  • patrick edlin says:

    I have known the Barling MP since 1981. I never saw her as a left winger, rather a careerist oportunist. She corrected me, more than once, when she was Chair of Social Housing provider Circle 33 as ‘The Barking MP’, she said ‘Im the MP for Barking’. I replied ‘I like it my way’. In her op-ed for the Guardian circa 1993 she said ‘we should not be forced to open our filofax’s to find board members (for Circle 33)’. Then with in five paragraphs she said ‘I was fotrced to use my filofax to fill the posts of board members’. A grip on detail and understanding of obvious contradictions have always been left wanting?

  • Trish O'Hara says:

    The very clear report from an active member in the CLP has told us what is happening. I am happy with that. I happen to also be happy that Margaret Hodge is facing a de-selection. Her behaviour toward our party is contemptible. In my opinion, she needed to be expelled when she called the leader of our party a ‘fucking anti-semite’. Slanderous. I cannot believe she has lasted this long. I have a complaint about her pending with the party.

  • Allan Howard says:

    John Pawson said:

    What I’m hearing is that this move has come from those in the CLP who have supported Margaret Hodge and share her political views but had expected her to retire and wanted an MP who lives in the constituency.

    Yes, but it seems highly unlikely to me that the Hodge supporters didn’t know how it would be reported by the MSM if they voted for her to have to stand for reselection. And what possible reason would they have had to say that they had expected her to retire, or why, after however long she has been an MP for Barking AND hasn’t lived in the area/constituency, would THAT suddenly become an issue. Sorry, but I just don’t buy it.

    Will be interesting to see if she gets reselected!

  • If Margaret Hodge had spent one ounce of her time trying to really represent her constituency needs there may have been a different outcome .she never did that; she took them and the seat as her right not to be earnt by actually doing the job.!

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