Former council leader Dame Margaret Hodge on not seeking re-election as MP
- Credit: Ken Mears
Former Islington Council leader Dame Margaret Hodge said her decision not to seek re-election as an MP was the right one at the right time.
The Labour politician announced last week that she would be stepping down as Barking MP at the next general election, to be held no later than December 2024.
Dame Margaret was elected to the seat in 1994, after she spent ten years leading Islington between 1982 and 1992.
She said: "Deciding to cut the umbilical cord was quite difficult.
"But it's the right decision at the right time. I've still got loads of energy. You come into politics to change the world and there's lots of things I still want to make better.
"I'd rather go when I'm on top than go when suddenly I find I haven't got the same energy levels to put in."
The biggest lesson she said she learnt ahead of becoming an MP was from a child abuse scandal at Islington care homes.
Potentially thousands of people were abused physically and sexually by paedophiles in borough-run care homes between the 1970s and 1990s.
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She admitted she failed to listen to the children affected.
Dame Margaret said: "That was a mistake. What I learnt from that was how important it is to listen to the users of services.
"Now all my work is about putting the user at the heart."
As well as spending 27 years as Barking MP, she served in the last Labour government.
Dame Margaret has also been a leading voice in opposing antisemitism, something she has vowed to continue with after leaving parliament.
She said she received 90,000 "mostly hostile" mentions in a two-month period after the Equality and Human Rights Commission published a report in October last year criticising Labour over the issue and its handling of antisemitism complaints.
When asked whether the level of abuse and the fatal stabbing of Sir David Amess had accelerated her decision to step down, Dame Margaret said it had not been a factor.
"I'm not going to shut myself away. I'm an MP, I'm in authority, they're not getting at the real me.
"You have to compartmentalise your professional life as a politician from your personal life."
The grandmother-of-12 said she needs to think about whether she will step back from politics altogether on leaving parliament.