Hodge fights to save ministerial role

Under-fire children’s minister Margaret Hodge made a humiliating
climbdown this week after being forced to apologise for comments
she made about a government adviser who was a victim of child

She was poised to make an apology in the High Court this week to
Demetrious Panton, whom she called an “extremely disturbed person”.
She made the claim in a private letter to the BBC after learning
that Radio 4’s Today programme was to investigate claims Panton was
abused in a children’s home in the 1970s.

Hodge will also make a donation of £10,000 to Panton’s chosen
charity, rehabilitation agency Nacro, and pay his legal costs.

Last week, he said he was “gobsmacked” by what Hodge had said about
him, and had threatened to sue her for libel (news, page 6, 13

Panton said Hodge also promised to write a private letter to him
explaining why she made the comments. He was relieved the episode
was now over: “I am happy that it is drawing to a close and I can
get on with my life. It has been an awful seven days. She has
withdrawn the remark unreservedly and accepted that those comments
should never have been made,” he said.

Panton reported the abuse to Islington Council in the 1980s when
Hodge was leader of the council, although the abuse happened in the
1970s when she was not leader.

She said she does not remember his case, but later described his
experiences as “dreadful”. The police investigated Panton’s claims
for a second time in 1996, but were unable to track down the abuser
before he committed suicide three years ago.

Panton was the lead evaluator on the New Deal for Communities
project in Fulham in west London, and evaluated other NDC schemes
in London.

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