Margaret Hodge recently decided to step down as an MP, so we thought it might be interesting to take a look at her political legacy. I must admit it was quite an eye opening exercise….
Speaking on the ‘NOT The Andrew Marr show’, former South African politician and author, Andrew Feinstein, revealed that the Guardian Newspaper had sat on a story about Margaret Hodge’s family-owned steel-trading corporation for some time now. It turns out that Hodge and her brother were key board members and the biggest shareholders in Stemcor (Hodge is still a major shareholder) and that the company had a “profitable relationship” with the South African apartheid regime, selling apartheid iron and steel to other countries, including to the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. According to Feinstein, Hodge has personally received many £Millions in dividends from the family business. Worth noting that In November 2012, at a time when Hodge was Chair of the Public Accounts Committee. The Daily Telegraph reported that Hodges family owned company paid “just 0.01pc tax on £2.1bn of business generated in the UK”. Then, in April 2015, The Times reported that Hodge had benefited from the closure of a company which had held shares in Stemcor, using a legal method that allowed them to return undisclosed assets to the UK with reduced penalties. Hodge gained 96,000 shares worth £1,500,000 as a result. Hodge repatriated assets to the UK via a Lichtenstein family trust using the Liechtenstein disclosure facility. This allowed her to significantly reduce penalties and avoid prosecution. A number of newspapers exposed Hodges utter hypocrisy, given that she had previously been extremely vocal in condemning the use of tax havens and had specifically criticised Panama for its financial secrecy when, in actual fact, it turns out that 75% of the shares in the family trust have been held in Panama.
It’s hard not to speculate if the real reason why Hodge was determined to repeatedly attack and slander Jeremy Corbyn was because there was a very real likelihood that if Labour had won a general election and Corbyn had become Prime Minister then they would, very likely, have closed all the tax avoidance loop holes and gone after the companies that had abused the system.
Hodge had actually previously claimed that she had been part of the anti-apartheid struggle and said how proud she had been of the moment when Mandela was finally released, effectively laying claim to her involvement in his emancipation but, according to Feinstein, the research tells a very different story – i.e. that she made a personal fortune actually serving the apartheid regime of South Africa.
It seems Hodge is prone to lies and exaggerations because in September this year, she wrote an article in the Barking and Dagenham Post about the recent Afghan refugee crisis. In this, she claimed that she had a unique perspective and empathy for the Afghan refugees because she, herself, had “fled conflict as a child” and understood “how terrifying it feels.” However. according Hodge’s Wikipedia profile Hodge was born in Cairo, Egypt, on 8 September 1944. Her father, Hans Oppenheimer, left Stuttgart in the 1930s and emigrated to Cario to join his uncle’s metals business, which is where he met Hodge’s mother, Lisbeth Hollitscher, an émigrée from Austria. They married in 1936 and had five children. According to Wiki, fearing an increase in anti-Semitic sentiment during the Arab-Israeli War, the family decided to leave Egypt in 1948 and move to Orpington, Kent, where they started their family-owned steel-trading corporation, Stemcor. Not quite the evocative ‘fled conflict as a child’ story, that she would have us all imagine then?
Later on the ‘NOT The Andrew Marr show”, left-wing Jewish historian David Rosenberg also testified to Hodge’s deep rooted racism, describing how during the 2006 local council elections, in Hodge’s Barking constituency, she told the Sunday Telegraph that “8 out of 10, white working class people were thinking of voting BNP… they see black and ethnic minority communities moving in and they are angry”. This put rocket fuel under the BNP campaign and they won 11 council seats in that election. Even more shocking was the fact that, in order to win voters back the following year, Hodge announced that she would fight for “a local housing policy that privileged the legitimate sense of entitlement felt by indigenous families over the legitimate needs demonstrated by new migrants”, effectively adopting the language of the BNP and clearly demonstrating that she had very little, if any, empathy for migrants and refugees. Both Feinstein and Rosenberg picked up on the clear irony that someone like Margaret Hodge, an outspoken racist, apartheid collaborator and a person who adopts, benefits and even profits from racist ideology, should be allowed to falsely accuse her political opponent, a lifelong anti-racist, Jeremy Corbyn, of being “a f*cking anti-Semitic racist.”
Rosenberg further observes that whenever Hodge is criticised for anything she whips out the anti-Semitism card and starts using highly evocative language to paint herself as a victim. He explains that when Hodge received a notice from the Labour Party that there had been a complaint against her (by another MP) for the disgusting language she used when she attacked Jeremy Corbyn, Hodge claimed that she was being treated like “a Jew in Germany in the 1930’s” and added “it felt as if they were coming for me” – completely trivialising the holocaust over a legitimate complaint about her use of vile and offensive language.
Hodge has a few skeletons in the closet that appear to have been ‘overlooked’ in the living eulogy recently bestowed upon her by the right wing corporate media, following her decision to stand down as a politician. For example, in the early 70’s, Hodge was a councillor for the London Borough of Islington and became chair of the Housing Committee in 1975. She eventually became council leader in 1982, but not many people know that Hodge was actually disqualified as a councillor in 1984, after failing to attend council meetings for over six months. Even more shocking is the fact that, in the early 80’s, during her tenure at Islington council, Hodge refused to investigate reports of paedophiles operating inside Council-run children’s homes in Islington, despite the fact that the complaints were raised by the victims themselves as well as by senior social workers. Liz Davies, a senior social worker employed by the borough and her manager, David Cofie, had both raised concerns but were refused extra investigative resources by Margaret Hodge. Davies & Cofie continued with their investigation regardless and In 1995, the ‘White Report’ into sexual abuse in Islington Care Homes confirmed that the council had failed to adequately investigate the allegations. In a surreal turn of events, in 2003, Tony Blair appointed Margaret Hodge as ‘Minister for Children,’ which is when the story really broke as victims and social workers decided to go public about Hodges track record on dealing with victims of child abuse. A 2014 investigation into 21 children’s homes later discovered that Jimmy Savile may have abused children at one the Islington care homes under Hodge’s tenure.
In a shameful attempt to deflect blame, Hodge chose to attack the child abuse victims and social workers who reported the abuse, calling them “seriously disturbed.” Demetrious Panton, one of the victims she attacked is now a successful lawyer so Hodge was subsequently forced to pay £10,000 in damages for libeling him and Hodge has since been forced to apologise. In the aftermath of these shocking revelations, Hodge has repeatedly blamed her inaction on “naivety.” To date, there doesn’t appear to have been any accountability, let alone a formal, or criminal, investigation into the conduct of Margaret Hodge or Islington council staff at that time.
Hodge, it seems, perfectly fits the profile of a certain breed of British politician – lying, exaggerating, serving themselves and dismissing and ridiculing the very people they were appointed to serve. They spend most of their political careers burying one, career ending, scandal after another (Johnson, Starmer, Blair, Cameron for example) and are expert at deflecting away scrutiny by targeting and accusing others of things they haven’t done – a neat trick, especially if there’s no proof either way, because all you really need to do is to keep sowing doubt in order to influence public opinion. Politicians like Hodge do not serve the interest of the people they are appointed to serve and they chip away at public trust in politicians and in government. In Hodge’s case, the damage has been extensive and that is the real and utterly shameful legacy that she leaves behind.
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