WE NEED A MORE ACCURATE APPRAISAL OF THE LEGACY OF GREVILLE JANNER
The article by Geoffrey Alderman Just what will be his legacy? ( JC, Dec 25) is important in that it will be a “source document” when a biography of Greville Janner is subsequently written.
However, there are some major errors of fact that must be corrected at this stage.
First, let me take the events of May 1970. Harold Wilson, who was then Prime Minister, announced to the nation on May 18 that Parliament would be prorogued on May 29, and that a general election would take place on June 18.
Barnett Janner was then approaching his 78th birthday. Apparently, he was advised by his doctor that he was medically unfit to fight another election, and he so advised the management committee of the North West Leicester Labour Party on Thursday, May 21.
The management committee was subsequently in turmoil. There was exactly 18 days before nomination of candidates for parliament closed on Monday, June 8.
Nevertheless, the vacancy was made known to all those on the Labour Party candidates’ list.
There were many applicants, and the management committee prepared a shortlist. Greville Janner, who had not stood for parliament since 1955, applied and gained a place on the shortlist.
At no time, did Barnett Janner take any part in the proceedings following his withdrawal.
He was scrupulously careful not to be involved.
The candidates on the shortlist were interviewed on around June 2, and Greville Janner was selected. No doubt, the name was a great advantage, as the constituents all knew Janner.
I now return to Greville Janner as President of the Board of Deputies from 1979 to 1985.
I sat next to him on the platform, and he was careful to have balanced debates and to hear varying points of view. His six years were not mired in controversy.
There was only one painful episode — he had initiated a festival of British Jewry with several functions during 1984 to 1985, culminating in a major function at Hampton Court Palace early in June 1985. This was to be his grand finale, with the Prince and Princess of Wales as his guests of honour.
Unfortunately it was a fiasco, primarily because it was a two-tier function, with a certain number dining with the royals.
When the president emerged with the guests of honour, there was no organisation and the situation was chaotic.
Finally, Geoffrey Alderman refers to “his Vice President” Martin Savitt as Janner’s chosen successor. Geoffrey Alderman was then a member of the Board of Deputies representing Clapton synagogue.
He has a good memory, and is well aware that there were two Vice Presidents. I was the Senior Vice President, and Martin Savitt the Junior Vice President.
If Martin Savitt was his personal choice as successor, he never stated this publicly and, like his predecessors, when a presidential contest was to take place, he did not endorse either candidate.
I was elected because I had a solid provincial vote, and a significant vote from deputies representing synagogues in London. I was known for my synagogal activities in Newcastle, and was regarded as a “shul man.”
Martin Savitt did not lose because he publicly defended Greville Janner.
These points must be recorded, as posterity demands it. Lionel Kopelowitz Senior Past President, Board of Deputies of British Jews