While we all wait to see what rabbit Bibi can pull out of his hat in the final days before he submits his coalition to the president, those of us living in the UK have our own elections to worry about on May 7th.
The UK is entering into the most closely fought General election in decades and with neither of the major parties (Conservatives and Labour) currently expected to win an outright majority, another coalition government seems to be on the cards.
Unlike the Proportional Representation system in Israel, whereby each party has a central list of candidates and each voter chooses a national party, the UK uses the ‘First Past the Post’ system and has 659 constituencies, each electing a single Member of Parliament to the House of Commons. Historically, this system has produced slightly disproportionate results, yet has facilitated a string of stable governments with few exceptions. For example, in 1997, Tony Blair leading the Labour Party won 43.2% of the popular vote but a whopping 418 seats representing 63.4% of those available in the House of Commons.
So with this in mind, many voters chose the party they wish to see in government as their primary voting factor, instead of voting for an MP who they think will do the best job in their consistency. I am one of those people and this brings me to my dilemma on Election Day.
I live in the North London constituency of Hendon. From 1997 to 2010, we were represented in Parliament by Andrew Dismore of the Labour Party. In the last General election, this seat was won (by a mere 106 votes) by Matthew Offord, of the Conservative Party. I’m delighted to say that both of these candidates, who are standing again in this election, are fantastic MP’s for Hendon. As committed Zionists, they have both done a huge amount for the Jewish community in their constituency and beyond as well as supporting Israel vocally and often in their capacity as MPs and in other roles.
So as a Zionist and with Israel always near the top of my agenda, who do I vote for?
It may seem like I have the best problem in politics; it doesn’t matter who I vote for, as either way I’m going to be getting an MP who cares about the Jewish community, supports and defends Israel and is vocal on issues such as Kosher Shechita and defeating BDS. (Liberal Democrat, UKIP and Green candidates are not polling realistic numbers so I’m focusing on the main candidates, but for the record, they all have skeletons of various sizes in their closets when it comes to supporting Israel).
However, this is not the case and unfortunately, the Zionist within me must make a slightly more tactical decision. Those of us living in the Hendon constituency must look past the record of both major party candidates and look towards their party leadership and their views on Israel.
This is where my decision becomes much easier.
For the past five years, the Conservative Government, led by David Cameron (in coalition with the Liberal Democrats) has been clear and unequivocal in their support for Israel – not only during election time, but throughout the last five years in government as well.
David Cameron came out strongly in support of Israel during the most recent Gaza conflict during the summer of 2014; in 2012 he was the guest of honour at the United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA) annual dinner and has ensured that over the past few years trade and cooperation with Israel has increased, reaching record levels in 2014/15. It’s hard to fault David Cameron and his Conservatives in their support of Israel, especially at a time of frosty relations with the US and even colder relations with the EU.
In contrast, Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party has shown at best antipathy and at worst antagonism to Israel and Israeli interests during his time as Labour leader. While often mentioning his ‘gratitude to Israel’ for providing his family refuge after the Holocaust, Ed has made several public comments showing his lack of understanding of Israel’s positions and even appeared at the 2014 Labour Friends of Palestine fundraising dinner, elevating a previously niche group to mainstream levels by allowing them to take media advantage of his name and position.
Last year when Labour backbench MP’s proposed a parliamentary motion in support of recognising Palestine without any requirement for the Palestinian leadership to honour past commitments or rejoin the negotiating table, Ed even ordered all labour MP’s to vote in favour using a three-line whip – an extreme tool to use for a symbolic and ineffective motion such as this.
It would be remiss not to mention the Liberal Democrats, likely to win only a couple dozen seats in this election, whose only positive point regarding Israel is that they are not as negative as the other parties running, such as the Scottish National Party and Green Party, who hold pathetically anti-Israel platforms. David Ward, a Liberal Democrat MP even suggested that he would be a Hamas supporter during the recent Gaza conflict and was barely reprimanded, being suspended for just a few weeks form his party.
In short, David Cameron talks a good talk and has proven both in and out of government that he will continue to support, defend and invest in Israel’s relationship with the UK.
Ed Miliband on the other hand has proven time and time again that he finds fault in Israel for stalling the peace process and in her use of force in conflicts with Gaza, whilst ignoring her right to defend herself from missiles, terror tunnels and international condemnation which has reached absurd proportions, especially within both the UN and EU.
So it seems I do have a clear choice, after all. If the Jewish community, Israel and the UK relationship with the Jewish state are my main concerns in this election, there is no way I could cast a vote for Labour and risk the chance of Ed Miliband living at number 10 Downing Street.
Apologies Mr Dismore – it’s not you, it’s Ed.