Jeremy Corbyn is facing further pressure over antisemitism 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 antisemitic 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’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 antisemitism 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.”
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 antisemitism.
“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 antisemitism 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.
Mr Bull’s decision to step down came the day after the prospective Labour candidate for Gordon, Kate Ramsden resigned over a blog she wrote likening Israel to “an abused child who becomes an abusive adult”.