Jenni Frazer

Jewish Tories and a LibDem

For the Times of Israel posted June 7 2017

LONDON — The Jewish vote was so important to Conservative politician Zac Goldsmith during his unsuccessful run for mayor of London last year that the candidate launched his campaign at London’s Jewish Community Centre, JW3.

Goldsmith, who is not halachically Jewish, has nonetheless suffered antisemitism due to his name — and his tycoon father’s Jewish heritage. Just yesterday, one of his Conservative election signs was defaced with a swastika.

Goldsmith is now fighting an uphill election battle in Richmond Park, in south west London. He is not alone, however, in suffering antisemitism as a Conservative party member attempting to regain his former seat.

Lee Scott was Conservative MP for Ilford North for 10 years until he lost to Labour’s pro-Israel Wes Streeting in 2015 by just 589 votes. Scott, a one-time staffer for the UJIA, the fundraising arm of the Jewish Agency in Britain, was subjected to terrifying anti-Semitism and death threats during the 2010 and 2015 campaigns, to the point where he had to have police escorts to protect him and his family.

Almost twice Streeting’s age (61 to Streeting’s 34), Scott surprised many by his decision to run again, but he says he has “unfinished business” in the heavily Jewish constituency. He voted to remain in the European Union in last year’s referendum but has since publicly changed his mind — despite the fact that the majority in the constituency, like most London boroughs, voted similarly.

Goldsmith and Scott notwithstanding, most Jewish candidates for the Conservative Party are expected to have it far easier than their Labour counterparts in Britain’s 2017 general election on June 8.

Additionally, besides the Jewish candidates standing for Labour and the Conservatives, there is also one Jewish politician standing for the Liberal Democrats: Dr Julian Huppert is bidding to regain Cambridge, the seat he held for five years between 2010 and 2015, when he lost by a mere 599 votes to Labour’s Daniel Zeichner.

For the Liberal Democrats, who suffered a catastrophic collapse in 2015 — from sharing a coalition with David Cameron’s Conservatives in 2010 to just eight parliamentary seats five years later — Cambridge is one of their target seats, and Huppert, a 38-year-old research scientist, is determined to try and win it back. He spent time studying at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot and is keen to explore the hi-tech links between Cambridge, known as “Silicon Fen,” and Israel’s “Silicon Wadi.” He describes himself as “an internationalist” and believes Britain’s place is firmly within the European Union.

Brigg and Goole and the Isle of Axholme
Current MP: Andrew Percy.
Percy converted to Judaism in March 2017 and is an outspoken advocate for Israel — and for gefilte fish.
Has held the seat since: 2010, when he was elected with a majority of 5,147.
Majority in 2015: 11,176.

Huntingdon, near Cambridge
Current MP: Jonathan Djanogly.
Djanogly inherited the seat from former prime minister John Major. Described as “very supportive, and ready to speak up for Israel,” the MP visited Israel last year.
Has held the seat since: 2001.
Majority in 2015: 19,404.

Harlow, Essex, just outside Greater London
Current MP: Rob Halfon.
This MP has overcome a physical hurdle, as he has cerebral palsy and walks with crutches. He is the former political director of the Conservative Friends of Israel and parliamentary private secretary to Chancellor George Osborne.
Has held the seat since: 2010.
Majority in 2015: 8,350.

Lichfield, Staffordshire (central UK)
Current MP: Michael Fabricant.
He gets most involved in the Israel debate on social media, and says: “Israel has its faults, but it has an independent judiciary, an independent legislature, and an independent press. That’s unique in the Middle East.”
Has held the seat since: 1997.
Majority in 2015: 18,189.

Welwyn and Hatfield (outside London)
Current MP: Grant Shapps.
Shapps is the former chair of the Conservative Party, and one-time chair of B’nai B’rith Youth Organization.
Has held the seat since: 2010 with 17,423 majority.
Majority in 2015:12,153.

West Dorset
Current MP: Sir Oliver Letwin.
He has held a number of Cabinet posts, but is said not to be overly engaged with the Jewish community.
Has held the seat since: 1997.
Majority in 2015: 16,130

Northampton North
Current MP: Michael Ellis.
A barrister, Ellis wrested his seat away from Labour and is described by Jewish insiders as “very, very onside.” He is the former Parliamentary Private Secretary to co-chair of the Conservative Party, Lord Andrew Feldman.
Has held the seat since: 2010.
Majority in 2015: 3,245.

Esher and Walton
Current MP: Dominic Raab.
This former lawyer is the son of a Czech Jewish refugee to Britain. He spent the summer of 1998 at Birzeit University in the West Bank, where he worked for one of the principal Palestinian negotiators of the Oslo Peace Accords. Before entering Parliament, Raab worked for the Foreign Office and advised on the Arab-Israel conflict.
Has held the seat since: 2010.
Majority in 2015: 28,616

Current MP: John Bercow.
Bercow has been the Speaker of the House of Commons since 2009. By tradition, Speakers do not usually face political opposition, but this year the Liberal Democrats are running against him. He is a high-profile politician who changed views from hard-right to soft-left and — pre-Corbyn — was even rumoured to be defecting to Labour. Bercow made a visit to Israel as Speaker in February 2017, returning a UK visit made the previous year by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.
Has held the seat since: 1997.
Unopposed in 2015.

Current MP: Daniel Zeichner (Labour).
Zeichner, who is not Jewish, will be challenged by Julian Huppert, a Jewish Liberal Democrat politician seeking to regain the seat he held for five years between 2010 and 2015 before Zeichner unseated him.
Has held the seat since: 2015.
Majority in 2105: 599.

  • 7 June, 2017
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