Bizarre. That is the only way I can describe Wes Streeting’s decision to attend tonight’s event run by the Muslim organisation, Mend.
It is eight years since I first interviewed Mr Streeting – he was the then president of the National Union of Students and I was the JC’s campus editor.
Now, as a Labour MP, he remains as polite, helpful and honest as he was in 2009. He is, in many ways, the perfect mensch.
Which is why I find his appearance at the session so baffling.
One Muslim organisation executive told Parliament last year that Mend had attacked his group for working with Jews, and suggested it was responsible for promoting conspiracies, antisemitism and hatred of other communities.
The fact that some of Westminster’s most outspoken critics of Israel, including Crispin Blunt and Joanna Cherry – who last week came dangerously close to comparing Israeli actions to those of the Nazis during the Holocaust – pulled out when concerns about Mend were raised with them, should have set alarm bells ringing in Mr Streeting’s office.
Since he was first elected in 2015 he has worked to represent all his constituents. While leading the condemnation of Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of Labour’s antisemitism problem and tackling Ken Livingstone face-to-face, he also repeatedly criticised the current Israeli government, its settlement building and treatment of the Palestinians.
But in the past few weeks he has spoken out more forcefully than before, chaired a Labour Friends of Palestine meeting and signed a letter highlighting humanitarian concerns in Gaza alongside dozens of vociferously anti-Israel MPs, a number of whom have been accused of antisemitic comments in the past.
How some of these points are compatible with the 34-year-old’s role as vice-chair of the All-Party Group Against Antisemitism is unclear.
A month after June’s general election, Mr Streeting was filmed singing “oh Jeremy Corbyn” – the fanfare for the leader he has so heavily criticised in the past two years.
Jewish constituents reacted with considerable anger, and concern has risen further since. I have been asked more questions about his positions following the election than in all the years combined since that first interview.
Many MPs have for years managed to combine their condemnation of aspects of Israeli government policy with criticism of Jew-hatred in Britain without needing to sit alongside groups with reputations as questionable as Mend’s.
Attempting to ride two horses at the same time is a dangerous pursuit, as Wes Streeting is finding out.