Wednesday, 25 July 2018

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.

In 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
We 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.
I therefore reprint the two articles by Pollard and Norman in the public interest, because this scoundrel should be widely exposed.
Tony Greenstein

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 Barking. 

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 mortals. 

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 to destroy. 
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 hypocrisy. 

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 “extremely disturbed”. 
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.

With a past like hers, Margaret Hodge might show a bit more humility

In the Eighties Hodge was aware of previous child sex abuse in the care homes for which she was responsible, and did nothing about it
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.

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