Labour’s pro-Is­rael MPs face wipe-out

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY MAR­CUS DYSCH PO­LIT­I­CAL EDITOR

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’

PHOTOS: GETTY IM­AGES

Polls pre­dict very dif­fer­ent fates for Theresa May and Jeremy Cor­byn

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