My strategic vote belongs to Labour in the constituency of Ilford North, #35 on Labour’s target list. Labour’s Linda Perham polled 1,600 votes behind incumbent Conservative Lee Scott last time. This time there’s a different Labour candidate.
I was struck by a post by Anwar Akhtar at the Samosa, about certain Muslim community leaders issuing edicts that Muslims should vote solely on foreign policy grounds such as Palestine.
I came across this the other day from a US site dedicated to the continuity of Jewish life after the Holocaust, which began:
“So let’s have a look at the personalities that are running for the premiership and make a sober assessment on who best represents Jewish interests. Of course the best candidate should be privy to Jewish support from around the world.”
“For Jews in Britain that are concerned with Jewish issues and British influence on Israeli affairs, Cameron is undoubtedly the man to back, with Brown, just more of the same and Clegg a total disaster.
Let us rally behind out brothers across the Atlantic and show our support for their campaigns and efforts in securing a better future for the Jews of Britain and ultimately all the citizens of the UK.”
I’m not falling for these narrow interests. But below is a selection of circumstances that Jews who refuse to vote as Jews on single issues of self-interest or solidarity are obliged to put aside. I’m getting them down for the record here.
Frankie Boyle is a recent example of people not bothering to distinguish between Jew and Israeli – the antisemitic death threats against Lee Scott are another. I didn’t think much of the Labour candidate’s inappropriate response, which was to warn against Islamophobia in the same (quoted) breath as condemning antisemitism. Politically responsible Lee Scott emphasised the difference between Muslims and murderers by noting that he’d received a lot of support from the Muslim community. Meanwhile Bert Jones, a Labour Councillor correspondent to the Ilford Recorder insists that the Conservatives don’t have any ethnic minority Council candidates. I wonder, does that count Jews, or only darker-skinned Jews?
When it comes to views about Israel and the Palestinians, and views about Jews and Muslims which become tangled with this issue, my constituency isn’t blessed with good parliamentary candidates. We know how badly wrong campaigning about the conflict can go. Hearing and reading my candidates I may be entitled to ask, along with others, “Is it good for the Jews?”
The Conservative candidate is a Friend of Israel. He was very defensive and inadequate in response about a distinctly rhetorical question about ‘apartheid Israel’ (that’s Islamist talk) at the hustings. Any Palestinian in the audience would have felt abandoned. Moreover, he’s on religious right of the party and I object to the ‘traditional family’ values of the Cornerstone group to which he (along with Nadine Dorries – the only woman – and Andrew Rosindell) belongs. Anti-abortion, anti-gay. Awful company.
The Labour candidate is playing with the Stop the War Coalition and supports sanctions against Israel. She has not kept her distance from extremists – her supporter MPAC-UK also likes violent jihad. If elected, she’s pledged to vote with her conscience and not the whip. But presumably it was conscience which led her to the Stop the War (No! Not that one!) Coalition. Conscience counts for little when the judgement is off. I tell myself she’s simply behaving like any other marginal candidate with desperate stereotyping appeals to notional floating voters. This is the candidate I’m voting for.
The Liberal Democrat candidate is a little zany. He thinks that you shouldn’t be called a terrorist if you are fighting for your freedom.
I share a lot of values with the Green candidate, but her party has deep-rooted problems with and ignorance about antisemitism it is unable or unwilling to address. Its policy is to boycott Israel, and it tore the guts out of a motion against antisemitism at its 2008 conference.
The Christian People’s Alliance candidate particularly blames Arabs for the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Those of us who are not Christian would exist on sufferance as long as we conceded that the land of Britain is Christian. He believes that law and government makes us weak. He was utterly terrible, Enoch Powell without the gravitas.
Under UKIP, my family probably wouldn’t have been permitted to immigrate here. The parts of the family which didn’t leave Europe were killed in the Holocaust.
Ditto the BNP which, neutral by policy to international conflict, is broadly supportive of Israel’s existence because it’s somewhere they can push Jews ‘back’ to.
So what’s best for the Jews? Well, if left alone, what’s best for the Jews is the same as any other group. A good start in life for children in disadvantaged families. Plenty of social housing will undercut support for the BNP in the hard times ahead. A balanced and clean economy. The dignity of good paid work. Reducing the gap between the poor and the middle, and ending the existence of a rich will be good for our emotional well-being and the environment. A universalist and ethical foreign policy. The NHS, particularly preventative health care. An older age which is as free of care as possible. Education for innovation, the best ballast in times of change. Renewable energy. Public transport. Conservation and a diverse ecosystem. Equal opportunities for minorities. The freedom and disappearing borders of the EU. A well-funded and free-thinking higher education sector. Avoiding a Conservative government.
So, better vote Labour in Ilford North. And hope that the Jews are left alone whoever gets in – Jews don’t deserve to feel uncomfortable for being Jewish in Ilford North.
Update: in fact I’m kind of getting it wrong. It is pretty significant that there’s no candidate in Ilford North who is, by my reckoning, ‘good for the Jews’. ‘Good for the Jews’ is a canary, I think.