Corbyn under fire over anti-Semitism after Hodge refuses to back him as PM

Jeremy Corbyn is facing further pressure over anti-Semitism in Labour after one of the party’s most prominent Jewish figures declined to endorse him as prime minister.

Dame Margaret Hodge – an MP for 25 years – refused to be drawn on whether she would prefer to see the Labour leader or Boris Johnson in Number 10, saying a government is “more than any individual”.

Her comments came after another Labour candidate stepped down after allegedly making an anti-Semitic remark.

Gideon Bull, the prospective parliamentary candidate for Clacton, apologised after a Jewish councillor complained about a reference he made to “Shylock” – the Jewish moneylender in Shakespeare’s The Merchant Of Venice.

Dame Margaret Hodge
Dame Margaret Hodge declined to endorse Jeremy Corbyn as PM (Yui Mok/PA)

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson came under fire after he suggested his Brexit agreement was a “great deal” for Northern Ireland as it would retain access to the EU single market and maintain freedom of movement.

The Liberal Democrats said his comments showed that even the Prime Minister recognised that Britain would be better off staying in the EU.

Dame Margaret’s intervention came the day after two former Labour MPs – Ian Austin and John Woodcock – said they would be supporting the Tories as they did not believe Mr Corbyn was fit to be prime minister.

Like Mr Austin, Dame Margaret – who is seeking re-election as MP for Barking – has been a long-standing critic of the Labour leader, accusing him of failing to tackle anti-Semitism within the party.

Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether she would prefer Mr Corbyn or Mr Johnson as prime minister, she replied: “I want a Labour government.”

Former Labour MP Ian Austin
Former Labour MP Ian Austin has urged Labour voters to back Boris Johnson (Luciana Guerra/PA)

Pressed on the issue, she said: “I think any government is more than any individual. And I want a Labour government.

“And I think that was as true of the past as it is of the present.”

Dame Margaret added she had faced “some hostility” to the work she had done around fighting anti-Semitism.

“I do think it’s a terrible reflection that actually there is myself and Ruth Smeeth and we’re the only two women Jewish MPs left on the Labour side,” she said.

Shadow attorney general Baroness Chakrabarti – who carried out a much-criticised review of anti-Semitism in Labour – expressed her regret at Dame Margaret’s comments.

“I’m sorry to hear that from Margaret, who I’ve worked with and debated with, with great mutual respect for many years,” she told the Today programme.

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