Turning a Pumpkin into a Cinderella – How Margaret Hodge Became a Hero of the Yellow Press
Turning a Pumpkin into a Cinderella – How Margaret Hodge Became a Hero of the Yellow Press
From Margaret Hodge’s foul hypocrisy into a paragon of virtue
The make over of
Margaret Hodge has been a wonder to behold. This was the woman who was
excoriated by Matthew Norman in The Independent and by most other decent people
for her role in the Islington Child Abuse Scandal, when she not only deliberately
covered up what had been happening in Islington’s children’s home but she also
attacked the victims. She labelled Demetrius
as ‘seriously disturbed’ an action
that cost her £10,000.
the same year the Jewish Chronicle’s
Editor, Stephen Pollard, wrote a front page article in the Express, Margaret
Hodge’s foul hypocrisy just beggars belief says STEPHEN POLLARD
on Hodge’s hypocrisy in criticising tax dodgers in her role as Chair of Public
Accounts Committee whilst, at the same time, doing exactly the same via family trusts
in Liechtenstein and Panama.
According to Chuka Ummuna’s logic, having relatives who died in the Holocaust gives you a free pass to be a racist
have also had the repetition of the absurd meme by Chuka Ummuna and Sajid David
(is there any difference between these rogues?) that because she had relatives
die in the Holocaust what she said when attacking Jeremy Corbyn is part of the
Holy Gospels. If this dishonest argument
were to apply more widely then virtually ever British Jew should be an oracle
since very few Jews didn’t have relatives die in the Holocaust. It is a totally nonsensical guilt tripping
argument of the kind one might expect from someone like Chuka Ummuna, who has
been lambasted by Black anti-racists activists for being Black on the outside
but White inside.
therefore reprint the two articles by Pollard and Norman in the public
interest, because this scoundrel should be widely exposed.
Margaret Hodge’s foul hypocrisy
just beggars belief says STEPHEN POLLARD
It’s impossible to know just how many people will have voted by the time
the polls close next Thursday.
PUBLISHED: 00:01, Fri, May 1, 2015 | UPDATED:
13:32, Fri, May 1, 2015
In recent elections the turnout
has been low: 65.1 per cent in 2010, and as bad as 59.4 per cent in 2001. The
buzzword is disengagement – that voters are disenchanted with, and have no
interest in, politics.
So they don’t vote. We’ve all heard it – and thought it: “They’re all
the same. A bunch of hypocrites”. Here’s my confession: I like politics. I even
admire politicians who change things for the better. I think politics matters,
and that not voting is an insult to the memory of older generations who gave
their lives so we could be free.
But, by God, sometimes I have to throw my head into my hands in despair
at how difficult some politicians make it to treat politics with anything but
contempt. And this week there’s been a real corker.
It’s difficult to imagine a more blatant, shameful and utterly
contemptible piece of two-faced hypocrisy than the behaviour of Margaret Hodge
that has been revealed this week. Mrs Hodge, you may recall, was chair of the
Public Accounts Committee in the last parliament, when she was Labour MP for
In that role, she developed a big public profile haranguing the often
hapless representatives of businesses such as Amazon, Starbucks and Google
which used off-shore arrangements to minimise their tax bills.
Hodge has always played with racism
She would haul them before her committee and denounce them, with guilt
already predetermined, as if she was in charge of a show trial
So great was her profile – and the popularity that she developed in some
quarters for her attacks on business – that she has been widely touted as the
Labour candidate to be Mayor of London in the 2016 vote.
But in one of the most jawdropping pieces of personal and political
hypocrisy you will ever see, Mrs Hodge turns out to be herself a beneficiary of
precisely that form of off-shore tax avoidance that she so regularly lambasts
when used by businesses.
To the tune of a cool £1.5 million. The details are that in 2011 she was
a beneficiary of the closure of a trust based in Lichtenstein, a principality
regularly used for tax avoidance because of its very low tax rates. This trust
held shares in Stemcor, a steel trading company set up by her father. Mrs Hodge
was given 96,000 shares.
A scheme known as the Lichtenstein Disclosure Facility allowed Mrs
Hodge’s shares to be transferred to the UK on specially favourable terms.
That’s the same Liechtenstein tax haven that Mrs Hodge, in her role as chair of
the Public Accounts Committee, denounced just weeks ago. As her report put it:
“We are concerned that the current system still causes the odds to be stacked
in favour of tax evaders using offshore accounts.”
Attacking Corbyn made Hodge an instant hero with the Tory press
The hypocrisy is so startling that’s it’s almost impossible to believe.
Almost. Because it doesn’t end there. It has also emerged that around three
quarters of the shares in the trust from which Mrs Hodge benefitted had
previously been held in Panama. Which is interesting, to say the least, because
Mrs Hodge has also spoken recently about Panama.
In March, she attacked it as “one of the most secretive jurisdictions”
with “the least protection anywhere in the world against money laundering”.
Truly, you have to wipe your eyes in disbelief at the sheer blatancy of her
hypocrisy. It is as if Mrs Hodge is so suffused with her own righteousness that
she thinks she is somehow above the standards she would impose on mere
But it gets better. Confronted with all this, Mrs Hodge has protested
that she has done nothing wrong and paid all the tax that is due. Every penny
of it. But that’s the whole point! She has, of course, done nothing in any way
illegal and, yes, paid everything she owes in tax. Which is also true of all
the businesses she is so happy to lambast, and whose reputations she is so keen
One more repetitious article in a sea of plenty in the mass media – all repeating the same theme
They too have done nothing illegal, and have also paid every penny of
the tax they owe. They have simply taken advantage, in exactly the same way as
Mrs Hodge, of financial arrangements permitted – one might even say encouraged
– by the law. And they have been savaged by Mrs Hodge for it.
When businesses structure their affairs – legally and above board – to
avoid paying more tax than they need, she screams blue murder. But when she
does it, she says there’s nothing to see, move along, no story here. What foul
Her behaviour drags the entire political system into disrepute, and she
would now be well advised to withdraw from public life. Not that she will, if
her previous behaviour is anything to go by. Because this is far from the first
scandal that Mrs Hodge has been involved in
Last April, she apologised for what she called her “shameful naivety”
when, as leader of Islington Council, she dismissively brushed aside the
victims of paedophiles who preyed on children in council care. One victim,
Demetrious Panton, who was abused by the former head of an Islington children’s
home in the late 1970s, was dismissed by Mrs Hodge in a letter to the BBC as
It was almost beyond parody when she was then appointed Children’s
Minister by Tony Blair. Mrs Hodge is not the first and will not be last politician
to say one thing and do another. But the sheer grubbiness of her brand of
hypocrisy leaves a stench that makes others look almost admirable.
Has there ever been a more spectacular political
reinvention than that of Margaret Hodge? The sun never sets on her Indian
summer as headline-pillaging chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee.
Watching her reprise the Torquemada act on Monday, with Rona Fairhead of HSBC
and the BBC Trust on her rack, I caught myself reflecting on this
metamorphosis and the staggering chutzpah that was its catalyst.
If anyone cheering Hodge on as she chirpily eviscerates
tax-dodging CEOs, obfuscating civil servants and the persecutors of
whistleblowers has forgotten her distant past, they are in splendid company.
Hodge apparently remembers nothing of it herself.
When calling on Fairhead to resign from the BBC Trust for
failures of oversight over HSBC’s enabling and encouragement of tax evasion,
she fashioned the Morton’s Fork that sits beside the plate at feeding frenzies
of the kind with practised ease. “Either you were incompetent, completely and
utterly incompetent, in your oversight,” she told her, “or you knew about it.”
These words would apply equally to an earlier scandal in
British public life. As leader of Islington Council, a post she held from
1982-92, Hodge was aware of previous, horrendous child sex abuse in the care
homes for which she was responsible, and did nothing about it. This was not an
either/or. She was incompetent, completely and utterly incompetent, and she
knew about it.
She was guilty of rather more than a casual failure of
oversight. She dismissed the detailed, accurate reporting of the London Evening
Standard – whose editor, Stewart Steven, battled with typical ferocity to hold
her to account – as “a sensationalist piece of gutter journalism”. Not content
with shutting her eyes to his front pages, our latter-day champion of the
whistleblower closed her ears to the courageous whistle-blowing of a social
worker, Liz Davies. In an open letter to the BBC after it investigated a range
of monstrous abuse (child prostitution, torture, alleged murders), Hodge
libelled one of its victims as “seriously disturbed”.
Years later, in 2003, she was forced to pay Demetrius
Panton £10,000 in damages for that, though understandably he was not assuaged
by her apology. In a prescient echo of her words to Fairhead on Monday, he
called on Hodge to resign. By then, her friend and neighbour Mr Tony Blair had
seen fit to promote her to – what else? – minister for children.
Her transformation from Islington’s Enver Hodgea (the Red
Flag was raised over the town hall and a bust of Lenin imported on her first
day as council leader) to relentlessly on-message New Labour parrot was
complete. Blair gave her his unconditional support, and unlike the generic
football club chairman, he meant it. She did not resign.
Reflecting on that appointment, the visceral shock bubbles
up anew. A local politician who had heard the gravest imaginable allegations
about the maltreatment of children, refused to examine them on budgetary
grounds, smeared a victim, attacked the newspaper that did its duty by
investigating, and finally – after years of running for cover – offered the
dismal excuse that people knew less about child abuse back then, became the
national politician with responsibility for children.
As the starting stalls open for the History’s Satirical
Historic Public Appointments Stakes, we find children’s minister Hodge going
off as the 2-5 favourite, with Middle East Peace Envoy Blair at 7-1, and
Caligula’s horse the rag of the field at 66-1.
On one level, albeit of a depth almost too cynical to
plumb, you doff the cap to her ungodly resilience. Surviving a scandal like
that requires a core of reinforced concrete. If most of us were exposed for a
failure of oversight on that epic scale, I suspect that we would crawl away
wounded from public life, and perhaps devote the rest of our days to charitable
atonement on the John Profumo template. With an absolute confidence in her own
rectitude that is either admirable or a symptom of a psychiatric disorder,
Margaret Hodge brazened it out.
Now we find her reborn once again, at 70, as a folksy folk
hero, you-guys-ing the tax-shy guys from “Don’t Be Evil” Google as she tells
them that they do evil, proselytising the whistleblowers to whom she cocked a
deaf ’un when they blew a screeching whistle on evil of an altogether different
order, and lecturing others about the need for 20-20 oversight where once she
was wilfully blind.
Never does Hodge let her personal history temper her
contempt for those whose failures seem so trivial compared with her own, or
permit a shard of self-awareness to put the tiniest puncture hole in her
titanium shell of righteous indignation. It is as if she regards the Hodge of
Islington (if she ever existed at all) as an entirely different Hodge from the
PAC’s gushing font of moral authority.
You have to say it’s magnificent, the turn the
grandstanding Queen of Mean performs at the committee as she dismisses the
likes of Rona Fairhead as the weakest link. But publicity-grabbing condemnation
without a scintilla of responsibility is the prerogative of the meretricious
political opportunist down the ages. So she is hereby reminded that she does
have a history of exercising power, that it is anything but flawless, and that
she should delve into it from time to time and allow it to inform her present.
Even generally decent and well-meaning people can be prey to arrogance,
incompetence and – she will forgive the Hodgean bluntness – stupendous
hypocrisy. Recognising this with a hint of humility might be an idea for
Margaret Hodge, even at the expense of the occasional headline.