When the Chicken Coup plotters sat down to plan the spontaneous resignation of MPs, they made sure to keep one back for the fourth of July. Jeremy Corbyn’s appearance before the select committee on anti-semitism simply had to provoke the spontaneous resignation of at least one MP – and who better than that grandson of a rabbi, Fabian Hamilton?
Anyone asking ‘Fabian who?’ has a short memory, because the Leeds MP was embroiled in one of the most bitter left-right feuds of the witch-hunting era of the 90s. Having been an unsuccessful candidate for Leeds North East in 1992, he was replaced as candidate by Liz Davies, following the adoption of an all-woman shortlist, which Hamilton vociferously opposed. Liz Davies was a councillor in Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency of Islington, associated with the left paper London Labour Briefing: far too socialist in the eyes of the right-wing majority on the NEC, who summarily deselected her, reinstating Hamilton.
Hamilton was elected MP in the 1997 landslide, but no Labour leader saw fit to elevate him to any position of responsibility till Jeremy Corbyn, who made him a shadow foreign minister in January this year and shadow Europe minister a few days before the anti-semitism enquiry disturbed him so greatly he was forced to resign.
An interesting sidelight to this is that Fabian Hamilton served on the student union executive at York University in the 1970s. Although the son of a Liberal Party parliamentary candidate, he was an independent with no connection to Labour, widely regarded as a showboater. Also at York was Richard Burden, now Richard Burden MP, fully paid-up member of the chicken coup. Burden also had no connection with Labour. He was, guess what, a member of the Union of Liberal Students, and as such became president of the union. Burden was, and still is, a staunch advocate of the cause of Palestinian liberation. Under his leadership the SU hit the front pages of national newspapers – for withdrawing funding from the Jewish Society, on the grounds that they were promoting Zionism. The row was vituperative, rehearsing all the bogus arguments about anti-Semitism we are hearing today. The university authorities were highly embarrassed, threats were made left, right and centre, and eventually the ban was overturned.
It was a militant time at York: at one point the university offices in Heslington Hall were occupied for a week. Burden was at the head of this, but when the SU leaders deemed it wise to withdraw, a new militant stepped into the fray to loudly denounce the president’s sell-out. To widespread amazement, the previously anodyne Fabian Hamilton had become red in tooth and claw.
Was there maybe an issue between the two men? Jeremy Corbyn surely has a rare power if he can unite an avid supporter of Palestinian liberation with a Labour Friend of Israel.