19 June 2009

Hodge accused over Barking selection battle

Barking MP Margaret Hodge was accused this week of involvement in alleged dirty tricks over selections to her local council. The row threatens to tear Labour apart locally and help the British National Party take over the council in next year’s elections.

Speaking to Tribune, Labour activists, councillors and community representatives have accused Ms Hodge of being a “control freak” who has engineered the deselection of Labour members of Barking and Dagenham Council in a bid to exercise personal control over her constituency Labour party. For personal family reasons, Ms Hodge was unable to respond before Tribune went to press.

Eight Labour councillors have been struck off the candidate list since March this year, including Val Rush, cabinet member for the environment, and planning chair John Denyer. A ninth, deputy mayor Fred Barns, was also deselected but reinstated on appeal. Barking and Dagenham has 12 BNP councillors, more than any other borough in Britain.

Asked what linked the councillors together, one activist said: “They’re all people who didn’t like Margaret”. Another declared: “She is a control freak and she wants total control… I can see the BNP controlling the council”.

Barking Labour Party has been riven with factionalism since 2006, when Ms Hodge was attacked over her remark that eight out of ten white households were tempted to vote BNP in the local elections.

One deselected councillor said of the events: “I felt it gave the BNP the oxygen it needed and I wasn’t alone in speaking out. I think that I’m now paying for that”. They had suffered “bullying and intimidation” including silent phone calls, they added.

Some deselected councillors were discriminated against for their disabilities, a well-placed source said: “John Denyer can’t walk the streets, but there was always something for him to do… Fred Barnes has a disability but he would drive everybody around, pick leaflets up, but he had a hip replacement. That was given as one of the reasons.”

Various sources complained that the selection panels had been fed misleading information about councillors. At least three councillors heard of their deselection before being officially told, and one said: “The BNP seems to know a lot more about what’s going on in Barking Labour Party… They told me before I even had my interview”.

Ms Hodge is said to have announced the deselection of two councillors in Barking’s Thames ward at a coffee morning on 13 March – the same day one of them, Cllr Barnes, received the letter informing him.

The MP is also blamed for alleged misconduct at Barking CLP’s annual general meeting of 2007, branded a “shambles” by two separate sources. They say that non-Labour Party members were allowed into the meeting but other Labour members were barred and that Ms Hodge’s staff instructed delegates how to vote. Delegates complained to London Labour Party.

A London Labour Party spokesperson said its selections had been “fair” and denied any impropriety, including any contact with the BNP over deselections. It was “totally spurious” that disability had been used against councillors, they added. Laila Butt, Ms Hodge’s CLP secretary, said Ms Hodge had no involvement in selections.


Norfolk Unity is a proud friend of Cllr. Val Rush. She fights fascism. Margaret Hodge paved the way for 12 fascists to become councillors on Barking and Dagenham Coucnil.

No comments: