Pickles is exactly to our taste
WITH THE political fortunes of a number of Jewish MPs waning last August, I asked in this column which politicians would speak for our community.
Six months on I think I have an answer. Could a Christian former council leader from west Yorkshire be our hero?
Step forward Sir Eric Pickles, Britain’s special envoy for post-Holocaust issues.
It has been a busy few days for Sir Eric. On a trip to Israel last week in his role as Conservative Friends of Israel chairman he was photographed planting a tree at the JNF’s Lord Sacks Forest near Jerusalem to mark his 2015 knighthood. He punned that it was “wonderful to put down roots in this wonderful country”.
By Sunday, he was addressing a Board of Deputies meeting in London. Without notes, the MP spoke for 15 minutes and was genuinely charming and funny. Settlements, the Balfour Declaration anniversary, Sir Eric Pickles plants a tree at the JNF Lord Sacks forest near Jerusalem
the Home Affairs committee report on antisemitism and rising Jew-hatred in Britain all got a mention before Sir Eric moved on to discussing his impressive work on post-Shoah issues.
So gushing was praise for the speech, deputies were practically rushing to the podium to embrace the Conservative politician when he concluded.
There are some rough edges to iron out. His mispronunciation of the word “kippah” as “kupper” triggered an image of Charedi men donning a Tommy Cooper fez instead of a streimel.
Cynics may believe he is doing all this for political capital and junkets to Israel. But consider this: Sir Eric is a 64-year-old former cabinet minister who represents the Essex constituency of Brentwood and Ongar which, I believe, has few Jewish voters. His political CV is likely to land him a peerage one day. He has been visiting Israel for more than 35 years and discussed peace prospects with Yitzhak Rabin before his assassination.
It is easy to take such support for granted. But can we afford to, when we have a government that has flipflopped on Israel and an official opposition whose stance on antisemitism and the Jewish state is indefensible?
I would suggest Sir Eric does not need us quite as much as we need him.