Local parties move against two Labour Friends of Israel MPs

Current Labour MPs Louise Ellman and Margaret Hodge. (MirrorPix/Splash News, Joel Goodman/ZUMA Press)

An update has been added below.

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.”

Update, 17 October

Louise Ellman quit Labour last night, demanding “different leadership” and claiming Jeremy Corbyn was “not fit to serve as our prime minister.” Unlike Labour Friends of Israel’s previous chairperson Joan Ryan, Ellman said she would not join another party.

A source in her constituency claimed it as a political victory for ordinary party members, saying she had jumped before she was pushed. She “knew it was game over,” the source said.

Commenting on Ellman’s resignation in a statement, left wing group Jewish Voice for Labour cast doubt on her claims of anti-Semitism, and said it had conducted an investigation which “reveals that her claims are false and emerge from political differences with local members that have nothing to do with anti-Semitism.”

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.

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Ellman and Hodge are both eyesores. The motion against the former is well-founded. It is Labour Paty policy to support the right of return for Palestinians. Ellman can't be in favour because she refuses to accept Palestinians were ethnically cleansed. Rather, she embraces the myth of 1948 as a defensive war and the displacement of nearly a million Palestinians voluntary. She is an unflinching supporter of Zionism and in the Commons has asserted that it is the project for a homeland in Israel for the Jewish people. Just what "the Jewish people" means is, of course, left slippery. As for Israel, as a State which denies full citizenship to non-Jews, it is not a mere "homeland" for Jews but an apartheid State, a State founded on racism. It's interesting that the moves against both Ellman and Hodge are based on their defence of Israel. There is a perfectly good case that there is no place in the Labour Party for supporters of racism. That Ellman has represented one of the safest Labour seats in the country for decades is a disgrace. Her adherence to the two-State solution, a possibility destroyed by the Zionists, is a flimsy cover for her defence of the status quo and worse. When has she condemned Israeli violence? When has she recognised that the Palestinians are imprisoned in their own country? When has she condemned the illegal settlements? When has she defended UN resolution 194? She is a brain-washed Zionist, lost in the archetypal fantasy that the whole of Palestine belongs to the Zionists (not the Jews because Jews who reject Zionism are reviled by Zionists) through genetic entitlement. This is a medieval doctrine. Nothing belongs to anyone by genetic entitlement. Ownership of land, like ownership of anything else is a cultural, historical, social, political and legal matter. It has nothing to do with genes. Posterity will judge Ellman and Hodge harshly. They defend an injustice which cannot endure. We won't let it.

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This has been a long time coming. Margaret Hodge should have been expelled from the Labour Party long ago for her uncomradely behaviour. She has deliberately smeared the name of Jeremy Corbyn and other party members and in fact encouraged people not to vote Labour in the Europe elections in May 2019. I personally complained about her 3 times to Labour and did not even receive an automated response which shows how deep the centrist Blairite invasion of the Labour party has gone. The Labour Party should disaffiliate from both Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel. They have their own agenda and are full of non-Labour Zionists. As for Ellman well her record speaks for itself really.

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Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada. He lives in London. Biography here.