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.

More from LabourList