Sharon Hodgson MP [Image: Schoolsweek].

Sharon Hodgson MP [Image: Schoolsweek].

Sharon Hodgson is the latest in the line of former shadow ministers to provide an unconvincing explanation for her resignation – more than a month after she handed in her notice.

She follows several others, including Lilian Greenwood and Thangam Debbonaire, who have seen fit to tell us Jeremy Corbyn is a poor leader who did not listen to his shadow cabinet and announced policies without consulting them.

It isn’t convincing, because the overall effect is of a co-ordinated smear campaign, with statements released at intervals, all very similar in content.

So Ms Hodgson tells us she quit because she saw the ringleaders of the so-called ‘Chicken Coup’ quitting, and that was enough for her to decide it was time to hand in her notice too:

Unfortunately, I could not continue supporting Jeremy after the events that followed Hilary Benn’s sacking.

I was not part of any “Blairite coup” or orchestrated plan to damage Jeremy’s leadership. My decision was my own. On the Monday after the Shadow Cabinet resignations, I got on the train to London, as I do every week, and had no plan to resign. Yet, as Monday progressed, it became clear that Jeremy’s leadership could not go on.

As MPs such as Owen Smith, Kate Green, and Lisa Nandy left a meeting with Jeremy and resigned, it was clear that the situation had taken a turn for the worse. These MPs are not “Blairites”, and they resigned due to Jeremy’s inability to engage with his cabinet. Jeremy had lost the confidence of most of his Shadow Cabinet, and in turn lost my confidence in him as Leader. Instead of carrying on as if nothing was wrong, I stood up for what I believed and made the difficult decision to resign.

They all resigned because the sacking of Hilary Benn triggered their move – they were following his lead. That makes Ms Hodgson a follower of followers.

Let’s look at her little tale of trouble with the leader:

It has been clear from his lack of engagement with his Shadow Ministers and the wider Parliamentary Labour Party where our democratic policy development processes have been over-run by the leadership or ignored.

My office and I spent months preparing for a Labour Party review into special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) to feed into Labour’s manifesto for the 2020 General Election. I identified the issues we needed to address; I raised questions in the chamber; I met stakeholders to discuss the review, and my staff put together a briefing for the wider PLP and the Leadership Office, and worked to get media coverage. Three days after the launch, I found out that my review had been completely undermined by our Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell.

Without consulting me, John had announced his support for a Shadow Neurodiversity Minister and an autism manifesto. My office picked up John’s announcement on Twitter, and subsequently raised the issue with him, requesting an opportunity to meet to discuss the matter further. After receiving no response, my team made several more attempts to reach out to John’s office, which were all met with no answer.

The combination of silence from John’s office and the large number of inquiries from external bodies and the media, left me with no option but to contact Jeremy’s office directly. Instead of support and an offer to resolve the problem, we were simply acknowledged with the sentence, “I appreciate the point”, and then told to expect an apology and clarification later, which never arrived. Indeed, nobody ever reached out to discuss the matter with me.

In all my time in Parliament, I have never experienced such lack of communication or respect for a shadow minister’s work from a Leader. To form a credible and effective opposition, a Leader must work with the PLP and respect the opinions of their shadow ministers. Jeremy needs to lead his MPs as well as the membership. Sadly, Jeremy has failed to fulfil the parliamentary aspect of his role from day one.

As members of the public, we have no evidence of Labour’s internal affairs. We have no proof that Ms Hodgson was carrying out the work she described for the reasons she mentioned and no evidence that she contacted John McDonnell in the way she describes – if she hadn’t, that would explain his lack of a response.

And again, where she discusses correspondence with Mr Corbyn, we have no evidence to show that a dialogue happened in the way she described.

In the light of Mr McDonnell’s previous comments about Heidi Alexander, any such statement is questionable and it is important to learn the other side of the story before making any judgements.

In the case of Ms Alexander, it seemed to the Labour leadership that she was dragging her heels – failing to take appropriate action against the Conservatives in her policy area of health.

Perhaps the story with Ms Hodgson is similar.

She is right that Mr Corbyn needs to lead his MPs, but it is much easier to do so when one has MPs who accept their duty to follow their elected leader.

We have all seen far too much evidence to show that they were more interested in stabbing him in the back.

Additional: A Vox Political reader got in touch on Facebook to point out the following: “SEND can work alongside Neurodiversity and autism, since Neurodiversity and ASD are an aspect of special educational needs.” In other words, his support for a shadow neurodiversity minister and autism manifesto would not have interfered with Ms Hodgson’s work.

Source: Sharon writes to local Labour Party members on her resignation and her support for Owen Smith MP – Sharon Hodgson MP

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