Local parties move against two Labour Friends of Israel MPs

Asa Winstanley 4 October 2019
Local Labour activists are calling for two prominent Labour Friends of Israel activists to step down from their seats in the UK’s Parliament.

Maraget Hodge has been “triggered” by her local Labour constituency in Barking, East London. This means she could face a selection contest to remain in place as Labour’s candidate for the next general election, should other Labour candidates stand.
A general election is expected within months.
Meanwhile in Liverpool, Louise Ellman could soon face a “no confidence” vote in her local constituency party.
Ellman is the chairperson Labour Friends of Israel and a former chairperson of the Jewish Labour Movement, two lobby groups with intimate ties to the Israeli embassy.
Both Ellman and Hodge have attacked left-wing party leader Jeremy Corbyn in the most outspoken terms. Last year Hodge personally slandered Corbyn as “a fucking anti-Semite and a racist.”
More recently she clarified that she would not give up making such attacks “until Jeremy Corbyn ceases to be leader of the Labour Party.”
Ellman openly opposes her own party’s leader becoming prime minister, saying recently that British Jews are so afraid of Corbyn “that they would seriously consider leaving the country if he entered Downing Street.”
Her comments were made in front of the Israeli ambassador at Labour Friends of Israel’s annual conference reception last month. She also used her speech there to condemn Labour members for passing a motion at conference in favour of the boycott of Israel.
Coup attempts
Hodge, a former Labour government minister under Tony Blair, is a parliamentary supporter of Labour Friends of Israel.
In June 2016, she formally triggered the coup attempt against Corbyn by proposing a motion of no confidence in him to Labour MPs. The coup had been in the works for months.
Labour MPs overwhelmingly voted against Corbyn. But their coup was defeated by Labour’s new mass membership, now reported to be more than 500,000 strong. Corbyn was re-elected as leader with an increased share of the vote.
The local moves against the pair do not seem to be primarily motivated by their support for Israel.
A left wing member of Hodge’s local Barking Labour Party, who voted for her “triggering” in their branch, told The Electronic Intifada that members had argued for her replacement as a candidate due to her “disloyalty” and attacks on Corbyn.
One member in the branch argued she made baseless allegations of anti-Semitism against the party.
Labour spokespeople have denied this, telling the BBC that her potential deselection has nothing to do with anti-Semitism allegations.
An article by another local activist on the LabourList news site claimed that the initiative to deselect Hodge came from her own right wing of the party: those that “share her political views but had expected her to retire and wanted an MP who lives in the constituency.”
But John Pawson, the author of the article, did write that they “find it deeply frustrating that my MP dedicates so much time to attacking our party and our leader.”
No confidence
Hodge being subjected to this process does not necessarily mean she will be replaced as Labour candidate for the next election. An alternative candidate would have to stand and win the votes of a majority of local members.
In Liverpool, left wing activists have been more vocally opposed to Ellman and her anti-Palestinian agenda.
An emergency motion proposed at her Liverpool Riverside Constituency Labour Party (CLP) last week cited the MP’s “attacks on her local and national party … with total disregard for natural justice.”
You can read the motion in full below.
A Liverpool Riverside source told The Electronic Intifada that the motion was ruled out of order at the CLP’s 27 September meeting on technical grounds. Instead the motion will now follow its path through local branches of the CLP.
An even stronger motion directly calling on her to “resign” as an MP has been tabled for debate at the St Michael’s branch of the CLP for Tuesday evening, a St Michael’s activist source told The Electronic Intifada.
But a vote on the motion has now been delayed a week. You can view this motion below.
“No confidence” motions, when passed by local activists, have no power to force Labour MPs to step down. But they can increase the political pressure on them, and the pressure on the national party to allow a democratic selection process to allow local Labour activists to choose their own candidate for MP.
Former Labour Friends of Israel chairperson Joan Ryan announced last month she would not stand in the next general election. This was the result of more than a year’s campaigning against her by local Labour activists – starting with a narrowly successful “no confidence” motion.
Corbyn capitulates again
The Electronic Intifada understands the week-long delay came about after pressure from Jeremy Corbyn’s office on the proposer of the motion to prevent a democratic vote, by withdrawing the resignation motion altogether.
So far the proposer of the motion is refusing to withdraw, despite additional pressure from trade union Unite.
A Labour spokesperson did not reply to a request for comment.
Liverpool voters as a whole ensure the city is a left-wing bastion. Ellman’s seat is one of the safest Labour seats in the country, with 84.5 percent voting Labour in the 2017 election.
Ellman appeared earlier this year in the now widely discredited BBC documentary, “Is Labour Anti-Semitic?”
Her claims to have been fighting endemic anti-Semitism in her local party have been hotly disputed by local Labour members.
A recent investigative piece published by left-wing group Jewish Voice for Labour accuses Ellman of a systematic campaign “to disempower and drive out members who back the socialist, internationalist politics of the Labour leadership.”
Correction: This article originally stated that pressure from the Labour leader’s office to withdraw the motion was asserted on the chair of the local branch. Our source clarifies that this pressure was asserted on the proposer of the motion. This has been corrected in the text.