One of the longest running London political feuds is that between Trevor Phillips, the Chair of the Commission for Racial Equality and Ken Livingstone.
The row partly goes back to 2000 when Phillips ran as Frank Dobson’s deputy in his ill-fated Mayoral Campaign against Livingstone.
The following three years that Phillips spent on the London Assembly (including being its first Chairman) were probably not the most productive of Phillips’ career as Livingstone seemed to frustrate Trevor at every opportunity.
“I won’t have that Bastard Phillips on the Police Authority,” was Ken’s remark to the first meeting of Tory Assembly members, and consequently Trevor had to sit through two years of endless London Fire Brigade meetings although he learnt at first hand what equalities mean in an organisation that had then barely emerged from the 1950s.
When Trevor moved on to the Commission for Racial Equality he had clearly found his niche in British Public Life and his immensely thoughtful contributions on race issues, stressing the need for integration, discussing the nature of Britishness gave the CRE credence it previously lacked.
The more sensible Phillips’ speeches the more vicious Livingstone’s attacks culminating in the bizarre allegation that Phillips was pandering to the BNP.
Indeed in 2006 City Hall went to a great deal of trouble and expenditure to organise a race conference on the same day the CRE had a big event.
I was reflecting on this as I enjoyed a pleasant early evening reception at the French Ambassadors residence in Kensington Palace Gardens to mark the award of the Chevalier de Legion d’ honour to Trevor to go alongside his OBE.
A mixed crowd of the great and the good, including a couple of Conservative MPs, one Labour Assembly Member but strangely not the Mayor of London heard Trevor pay tribute to the French President Nicholas Sarkozy for taking the diversity agenda seriously in France especially in the make up of his new Government.
It has long been my view that whereas the left talk a good story on diversity and equality issues it is actually the right that drive through the agenda. On the London Fire Authority 10 years of Labour control between 1990 and 2000 saw virtually no progress yet all changed when a Tory became lead member on equality issues.
The left spend so much time arguing amongst themselves and playing one ethnic group off against another. I was flabbergasted when locally a Hindu Labour Councillor complained to me that we had invited a Muslim fellow Labour Councillor to take part in a veterans day service earlier this year. The conviction of Waltham Forest Labour Councillor Miranda Grell (a former aide to Deputy Mayor Nicky Gavron) under rarely used provisions of the Representation of the People Act for telling voters her Lib Dem opponent was a paedophile have shown how often the ethnic groups on the left are hostile to the gay rights agenda.
Trevor Phillips great achievement has been to mainstream the whole equalities agenda in the UK and it is not just the French Government that owes him a debt of gratitude.