Jess Phillips has given a clear indication that she is considering making bid to lead the Labour Party.
Speaking this week to a packed audience at Limmud Festival in Birmingham, local MP Phillips and Wes Streeting were both scathing of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
MP for Birmingham Yardley Phillips said she “might” stand for the leadership, although in answer to a question by Jewish News, she urged “patience. Just wait and see”.
However, several members of the audience confirmed to Jewish News that Phillips mouthed “probably” after her answer.
She said she had first come into contact with the Jewish community when she was growing up, because she lived in an area where Birmingham’s then large Jewish community resided. “I had loads of Jewish friends. Pretty much all of my and my brothers’ friends at school were Jewish. My mum was always worried that when we brought Jewish friends home, they’d be upset when she cooked bacon,” she said.
More recently, Phillips – a strong advocate of women’s rights and campaigner against domestic violence – had come into contact with Jewish Women’s Aid, whom she described as being “among the best people in the world”.
But her interactions with the organised Jewish community came when “Labour started going the wrong way”.
Philips was also involved with “the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel” in parliament and that was also her interaction.
Ilford North MP Streeting attacked those around Corbyn, saying he was “pretty sure” that unlike the vulnerable people he and his people had let down, “they won’t suffer. One thing I have learned… is that posh people always fail upwards.
“But I hope that when every single one of those people goes to sleep every night, remember what Rachel Reeves said in the Parliamentary Labour Party last week: ‘the Tories are responsible, but we are culpable.”
Railing about the “awful choice” people had between Corbyn and Boris Johnson, Streeting added that he knew that there were people in “this room who will ask ‘how could you stand knowing what was happening in Labour’. However, do you think our country would be better served if the Labour Party didn’t have any Jews in it, any allies in it, didn’t have any Tony Blairs in it, or Jess Phillipses, or Wes Streetings, Rachel Reeves or Stella Creasys?”
Asked whether Corbyn should stay on as leader until publication of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission report into antisemitism, Streeting replied: “He won’t take responsibility and he never listens.”
Phillips said she understood “why people left and why people said what they did. There were some deep dark moments… One of the worst things to happen was there was literally no moral high ground one which we could fight against racism in our country because as soon as I or Wes or someone points out something abhorrent, the immediate response is ‘what about you lot?’”
Streeting echoed these sentiments, pointing out that the Prime Minister had used “bum bandits, picaninnies, watermelon smiles”, and there was “the same degree of dismissal and denial among Tory backbenchers” as there was among some Labour MPs over antisemitism.
“We have just had an election where the two major parties are mired in racism, and the leaders of both parties are among the root causes for this.”
The fight against anti-Jewish racism in the party “is going to take a huge amount of time and effort”, she said. “But it has to be honest and transparent… People can accept mistakes. But what people cannot accept is other people not owning up to mistakes. The Labour Party cannot and will not survive if it believes that some people are there to be protected while others can be thrown under the bus.”
This effort cannot be made by “any one person either. The party should stop pretending that any one person can do everything. And anyone who thinks otherwise simply has no business being part of the Labour Party.”
Streeting added that “I don’t believe we would be serving our country one bit if we abandoned the Labour Party, walked out and surrendered to the hard left, conspiracy theorists and antisemitic politics.
“There hasn’t been a meeting where Jess and I and others haven’t stood up to attack the leadership on this. But there is another group, bystanders, who didn’t speak up. Everyone should be speaking up.
“And as the leadership election approaches, people should be asked what they did during the war. If you said nothing when the JLM was being attacked, you are probably not fit to be leader of the Labour Party.
“If you are someone who called for a genuinely independent EHRC, because you didn’t realise that you were undermining an institution that was investigating the party for racism, then you genuinely are not fit to be deputy leader.”