According to legend, when a Labour MP described Herbert Morrison as “his own worst enemy”, Ernest Bevin butted in to reply: “Not while I’m alive, he ain’t.”
That story came to mind when I heard that a group of Jews had held a meeting in Prestwich last week with Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, a convicted fraudster, to discuss Islam.
You’re doubtless wondering what this is all about.
Perhaps things will be slightly clearer if I tell you that Mr Yaxley-Lennon usually operates under a pseudonym: Tommy Robinson. In that guise, he is the former leader of the so-called English Defence League.
Mr Robinson maintains that the EDL was "against the rise of radical Islam" rather than “against Islam". That distinction is important – but in this context is sophistry of the first order. EDL marches and protests somehow never managed to draw that distinction.
Since his departure from the EDL, Mr Robinson has been involved with a number of fringe organisations, from the ‘British Freedom Party’ to a British chapter of the German group Pegida.
Mr Robinson is – usually – careful to restrict his own words to issues surrounding Islamism. But there is a pattern to his activities, in which he just happens to be accompanied by people who do not adhere to that restriction.
Which brings us to his meeting last week with a dozen or so Jews.
The number is, of course, tiny – and they represent no one but themselves. But it would be foolish to ignore them.
The re-emergence of antisemitism as significant threat has disquieted many of us. I share that disquiet. Not enough is being done to tackle it both within the Labour Party and, probably more importantly, among the Muslim community. So it is understandable that some people latch on to the likes of Mr Robinson. They see a man who makes the right noises about protecting Jews from antisemitism and who appears to ‘get’ the urgency and importance of these issues in a way that the respectable mainstream does not.
But that approach is deeply misguided. Mr Robinson and his ilk – former BNP leader Nick Griffin trod this same path a few years ago – go out of their way to lure Jews into supporting their cause. First, because they think it gives them cover (‘How can we be racist?!’); and secondly because they hope it will stir up tensions between the two communities, which is what energises them.
But if our history teaches us anything it is surely that Jews should be especially wary of street thugs who build support based on racial intolerance. That they claim to be our friend should merely heighten our sense of wariness.
Those in our community who embrace Mr Robinson may indeed be fed up with what they consider to be the lack of a serious response to Muslim antisemitism. And they may indeed feel that they are simply upping the ante, making common cause with an ally.
But in allying with the likes of Mr Robinson, they are our own worst enemy.