What’s re­ally strange is Khan looks a bet­ter bet

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY MAR­CUS DYSCH

SO FAR the Lon­don may­oral elec­tion has at­tracted the at­ten­tion only of die-hard politi­cos, but with fewer than 100 days to go to polling day, it’s about to get more in­ter­est­ing.

The choice be­tween Labour’s Sadiq Khan and Con­ser­va­tive Zac Gold­smith pro­vides Jewish vot­ers in the cap­i­tal with some­thing of a predica­ment.

The bro­ken, bit­ter re­la­tion­ship be­tween the com­mu­nity and Labour — which seem­ingly hit rock-bot­tom at last May’s gen­eral elec­tion af­ter five years of Ed Miliband’s lead­er­ship — has plum­meted fur­ther since Jeremy Cor­byn grabbed con­trol of the party.

Mr Gold­smith could be ex­pected to seize on this and, cou­pled with his proIs­rael stance and Jewish back­ground, se­cure the back­ing of Jewish vot­ers.

Yet on the cur­rent ev­i­dence, it is Mr Khan who has made the most at­trac­tive ap­proach.

In in­ter­views I’ve con­ducted with the two can­di­dates, I’ve seen a hunger and will-to-win from one man, and an in­sou­ciant, laid-back al­most to the point of be­ing hor­i­zon­tal, ap­proach from the other.

Mr Khan is de­ter­mined to lead Lon­don af­ter May 5, and un­less Mr Gold­smith gets his cam­paign into gear quickly, it will be the red flag fly­ing over mayor HQ on the bank of the Thames.

Speak­ing to me last Septem­ber, Mr Khan out­lined a de­tailed knowl­edge of Lon­don Jews’ con­cerns – dis­tanc­ing him­self from toxic for­mer mayor Ken Liv­ing­stone, drop­ping names of his Jewish friends and back­ers, and ex­plain­ing how his Mus­lim faith makes him aware of shared is­sues such as religious slaugh­ter, cir­cum­ci­sion and con­cerns about coroners and burial.

Cyn­ics might sneer at him break­ing his Ra­madan fast in syn­a­gogues, or at what seems an overly-en­thu­si­as­tic ap­proach to in­ter­faith work. But he is willingly do­ing all those things, and has been for a long time. It is not just cam­paign fod­der, it is borne out of an ap­par­ently gen­uine de­sire, and his past po­si­tion as Com­mu­ni­ties Min­is­ter.

It is not hard to see through a politi­cian’s weak hand and Mr Gold­smith has not yet pro­vided any de­vel­oped thought on what ex­actly he would do for Lon­don’s Jews. Is he poorly briefed? A bad me­dia per­former? Per­haps. But it re­ally does not take much to trot out some well-re­hearsed lines on ar­eas of com­mu­nal con­cern. Even if you can­not do it con­vinc­ingly (see the afore­men­tioned Mr Miliband), you can at least try. Re­mem­ber, Mr Gold­smith also has the weight of ar­guably the most philosemitic govern­ment in the past three decades be­hind him.

Charm­ing, ur­bane, a safe pair of hands. All of this may be true of Mr Gold­smith, but when re­peated prob­ing re­veals no depth of knowl­edge on key Jewish is­sues, should we not be con­cerned?

Who­ever wins, the next Lon­don mayor will be a clear de­par­ture from the ad­min­is­tra­tions of Ken Liv­ing­stone and Boris John­son. This time it is political, not per­sonal.

Still scarred by the Liv­ing­stone years, the com­mu­nal ten­dency may be to take an anti-Cor­byn view and back Mr Gold­smith en masse. But with Mr Khan pulling ahead with the book­ies and poll­sters, Mr Gold­smith’s self-con­fessed slow start may mean it is al­ready too late for him to stop Mr Khan head­ing for City Hall.


Grip­ping? Zac Gold­smith and Sadiq Kahn’s bat­tle is about to get se­ri­ous

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