Two-day Boris steals the show

The Jewish Chronicle - - News -

THE WARMEST ap­plause at the Con­ser­va­tive Friends of Is­rael lunch was re­served for the two mem­bers of the Chris­tian Friends of Is­rael who re­mained be­hind to man the stand — while the Jews rushed home to spend Rosh Hashanah with their fam­i­lies.

One might have ex­pected that af­ter only a day-and-a-half of net­work­ing and carous­ing in the bars, in­stead of the reg­u­la­tory four, due to the un­for­tu­nate sched­ul­ing, those forced to leave might have been dis­ap­pointed. But the Jewish rep­re­sen­ta­tives head­ing back seemed quite re­lieved. This had not been the tri­umphant con­fer­ence every­one had been ex­pect­ing just a week ago. With the econ­omy crash­ing around their ears, and the ad­van­tage in the polls over Labour sud­denly looking a bit less promis­ing, or­ders from the top were to tone down the fes­tiv­i­ties. The Tories were or­dered to cut their “soon to be in power” cel­e­bra­tions, in favour of a more som­bre gath­er­ing. Sud­denly Rosh Hashanah seemed a lot more at­trac­tive.

For the Tories without a fes­ti­val to look for­ward to, there was Boris John­son. In­deed, it seemed that David Cameron’s real ri­val was not Gor­don Brown, but the Mayor of Lon­don, who de­fied the “non-tri­umphal­ist” or­ders to give one of his vin­tage speeches, cel­e­brat­ing his “ter­mi­na­tion” of Ken Liv­ing­stone.

He went on to ex­tol the achieve­ments of his five months in power and ended with a lyri­cal de­scrip­tion of green, “sweet-smelling” Lon­don, af­ter all the changes he plans by 2012.

Charm­ingly, he in­vited the peo­ple of Birm­ing­ham “and all the other cities I may have in­sulted” to come and visit. The queues of del­e­gates wait­ing to get in to the Boris Show, and the mul­ti­tudes stream­ing out once it was over, made it quite clear who was the real star of the con­fer­ence. Ap­par­ently, the mayor was is­sued with only a two-day pass to en­sure he went back to work in Lon­don in­stead of con­tin­u­ing to hog the lime­light.

Else­where, dark mut­ter­ings were heard about the leader. For­eign af­fairs took a de­cid­edly back-seat pri­or­ity to eco­nomic mat­ters and home pol­icy, but some pro-Is­rael Tories grum­bled that the cur­rent lead­er­ship wasn’t yet firmly on board.

Un­like at Labour’s con­fer­ence the pre­vi­ous week, where Gor­don Brown and David Miliband ad­dressed the Labour Friends of Is­rael fringe event, nei­ther David Cameron, Ge­orge Os­borne nor William Hague at­tended ei­ther of the two CFI events. “We need a much more ro­bust sup­port of Is­rael,” one Shadow Min­is­ter con­fided at the lunch.

But there was an op­ti­mistic spin from a CFI of­fi­cial. His ex­pla­na­tion? “In Labour, the mem­ber­ship isn’t so proIs­rael, so the leaders have to show an ex­am­ple. With us Tories, sup­port for Is­rael is in the very grass­roots.” Good try. AN­SHEL PF­EF­FER

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