THE last post was primarily meant to be about how members in Hampstead and Kilburn had, not only recognised that anti-Semitism within the Labour Party needed confronting with greater seriousness and stronger powers, but had also attacked the factionalism which they claim led the issue to be used for errant strategies against Jeremy Corbyn.
But there’s a line in the blogpost that has caused unexpected consternation behind the scenes today, and that’s the presumptuous throwaway lines which suggested last night’s special meeting was purely organised in response to Phil Rosenberg’s scathing article for the Jewish News, in which he complained that the issue had been sidelined at a previous meeting. I’m getting battered by text, email and WhatsApp for such an inference, and not just from one side of the party’s left-right divide.
Sure enough, some of Phil’s colleagues have been quick to say that the meeting was already being organised before he rushed to unburden his views in pixel-print. They dislike the idea too that he should be characterised as some sort of lone crusader, who will always get what he wants if he simply breaks the normal party etiquette and writes an angry blogpost. Nobody, whatever their background, I’ve been told a couple of times today, holds exclusivity over wanting to see racism and prejudice defeated.
So Phil’s role as an online columnist is clearly causing some static. And there is, have no doubt, a lasting annoyance with the way Phil compared the apparent enthusiasm for a group discussion on rule changes which would protect Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership with the decision not to debate a motion from the Jewish Labour Movement on expelling racists. Of course it is easy to find people who say Phil had to stand up and say something publicly on an issue of such importance and if you re-read his piece he actually gives credit to the Labour leader, but the use of ‘great betrayal’ in the title has made others feel under attack for simply being at the same meeting.
Some of this feeling was aired last night. More generally the left-wing irritation at the way the recent cases and controversies have been handled can hardly be missed in the message that will now go forward to the Chakrabarti Inquiry from the Hampstead and Kilburn CLP about factionalism, which says that the Left has felt unfairly accused, collectively, of anti-Semitism. Phil didn’t do that, but his earlier blogpost, to be brutal, pissed off a fair number of members.
And that’s why there is fresh frustration buzzing around today with Phil’s latest article for the Jewish News, in which he calls for an end to divisive politics, heralding who else but Hillary Clinton’s ascent to Democrat presidential nominee as the moment to do it. You’ll have guessed already that the view from some of his newly-garnered critics is that he himself had been divisive with the way he laid out his call for anti-Semitism to be debated locally, with the muttered claim that he could have made his point without reporting the apparently contrasting ‘passionate and heartfelt’ approach to protecting Corbyn.
Perhaps, if he wanted to instantly repair bridges with left-wing members who’ve felt indiscriminately bulked together as group who didn’t want to discuss anti-Semitism in recent days, championing his “refreshingly different” Hillary Clinton, whose very name sure divides opinion, may not have been the most therapeutic salve.
“This claptrap has to be read to be believed,” says one very unimpressed sceptic, from within the party walls today. “He kicks off by saying ‘we are all tired of careerist politicians’, before going onto to celebrate the biggest, careerist politician in America, almost famously careerist in fact.”
Watching and listening on, when you hear a word like claptrap you feel the temperature around Phil rise a little; no longer is he the dutiful backbencher finding his way at the Town Hall and making polite interventions at full council. If he is to have a regular blog on the Jewish News, he could reach more people than some of Camden’s cabinet councillors. Arguably he is becoming better known than some of them already, he has significant roles away from the Town Hall too – and so perhaps it is unsurprising that he repeatedly linked to possible parliamentary ambitions, especially with the tempting assignments in Hendon, and Finchley and Golders Green, on the table.
Needless, to say he is more than peeping his head a little over the parapet. In doing so, more rough and tumble no doubt awaits.