Labour’s pro-Israel MPs face wipe-out
THE POLITICAL careers of a number of key Jewish and pro-Israel Labour MPs are in doubt after Theresa May’s decision to call a snap general election.
According to most opinion polls, the Conservatives hold a lead over Labour of over 20 points.
If the result on June 8 comes even close to reflecting that then Labour MPs with 5,000-8,000 majorities will face defeat.
That would mean the end for Ivan Lewis, former Middle East Minister and Bury South MP, whose 2015 majority was 4,922.
Labour has performed poorly in Greater Manchester this year, losing the Kersal ward on Salford City Council in March for the first time in decades. Around 40 per cent of voters in the ward are Jewish.
Ruth Smeeth’s majority in Stoke North is 4,836, and David Winnick, at 83 Britain’s oldest Jewish MP, won by just 1,937 votes in Walsall North in 2015.
Pro-Israel Labour MPs under threat include Joan Ryan, the chair of Labour Friends of Israel, and Ian Austin, the son of a Holocaust survivor, who has repeatedly condemned Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of the antisemitism crisis.
Ms Ryan has a majority of just 1,086 in her Enfield North constituency, while Mr Austin won his Dudley North seat by 4,181 votes in 2015. Jewish Labour MPs Louise Ellman and Luciana Berger, and Conservative Grant Shapps, have confirmed they will defend their seats.
Lee Scott, former Conservative MP for Ilford North, said he will fight to regain the seat he lost by 589 votes to Labour’s Wes Streeting in 2015. Sarah Sackman, Labour’s 2015 candidate in Finchley and Golders Green — the constituency with the most Jewish voters — was still considering whether to launch a second challenge for the seat on Wednesday.
In Hendon, with the second highest proportion of Jewish constituents,
THERESA MAY’S Pesach surprise means the talk the length and breadth of Britain in the coming weeks will be about leaving the EU, the state of the economy, immigration levels, education and the NHS.
But in a few enclaves of north London, Essex, the north-west of England, west Yorkshire and Scotland, only one name will crop up again and again as candidates knock on the doors of Jewish homes: Jeremy Corbyn.
Has there in living memory, if ever, been a leader of a major political party in this country who has been so noxious for our community as the current Labour leader?
As Mrs May repeatedly highlighted during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, it is extremely difficult for moderate Labour MPs to campaign for Mr Corbyn to lead the country when they have spent the last 18 months warning that he is not fit to lead their party.
So how does someone like Wes Streeting — at the age of 34 and just two years into his promising career in the Commons — convince the Jewish voters in his Ilford North constituency to support him?
Mr Streeting’s majority of just 589 in what is Britain’s third most Jewish seat looks perilous, despite the substantial efforts he has made since that election to represent Jewish community interests. Lee Scott, the Jewish former Tory MP in the seat, will return to the fray and ask the 4,000-plus Jews whether they can bring themselves to vote for a party led by a man
with Mr Corbyn’s track record.
Ilford North is one of the admittedly few examples of a constituency where Jewish votes against Labour could demonstrably cost the party a hard-working, pro-Israel friend of the community his seat.
The rash of moderate Labour MPs who have said they plan not to contest seats which they fought tooth and nail to win less than two years ago serves as an indication of just how desperate they feel the situation is for the party.
In her nine months as Prime Minister, Mrs May has only fleetingly engaged with the Jewish community. But a successful speech at the Conservative Friends of Israel lunch, an op-ed in the JC, and occasional statements condemning antisemitism have been underlined by that unprecedented statement about the UN Human Rights Council’s bias on Israel last month and an earlier attack on John Kerry.
When dealing with the community, she shows all the assuredness of someone who spent six years as Home Secretary working regularly with communal organisations and developing a substantial understanding of the issues that concern British Jews.
Predictions that the Liberal Democrats will benefit as an outlet for traditional Labour and Tory voters who feel unable to support their natural political homes due to Brexit do not necessarily translate to our community.
Tim Farron’s efforts to urge Labour Jews in particular to turn to his party are unlikely to have a significant impact. Look back at the 2015 constituency results, in the five constituencies with the highest proportions of Jewish electors; no Lib Dem candidate came within 20,000 votes of victory. Even accounting for the ill-will directed towards that party two years ago, Labour’s antisemitism problems, Brexit concerns and Mr Farron’s pleas, it would still take a monumental turnaround for the Lib Dems to suddenly find themselves as British Jews’ party of choice in under 50 days’ time.
The same argument goes for representatives of the Greens, Ukip or any independents who argue they can provide an outlet for Jews who cannot bring themselves to support Labour.
Most likely is that thousands of left-leaning Jews will simply stay at home on
June 8, disgruntled, disgusted, effectively disenfranchised.
Where does that leave us seven weeks before polling day? With the almost unarguable probability that Mike Freer and Matthew Offord, who represent the country’s two most Jewish constituencies in Finchley and Golders Green and Hendon, will be returned with substantially increased majorities; and the sad likelihood that Mr Streeting and Tulip Siddiq, in Hampstead and Kilburn, will see their brave, anti-Corbyn efforts of the past two years blown to smithereens.
There will be plenty of political shocks, surprises and upsets across Britain in the next few weeks and on election night itself. Big names will tumble and sizeable majorities will evaporate.
But one thing seems as sure as can be — Jewish voters will desert Labour and present the most crushingly one-sided electoral result delivered by our community not just in a generation, but ever.
Most likely left-leaning Jews will stay at home on June 8’
Polls predict very different fates for Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn