Adam Cannon on this blog and Jeremy Brier elsewhere both criticise Jeremy Newmark and Mike Katz for standing as Labour candidates in constituencies with relatively large Jewish electorates (21.1% in Finchley and Golders Green, 17% in Hendon).
This cannot pass without comment. I’m not simply going to point out that they are both Conservative supporters (Jeremy has been a candidate and Adam says he has ‘traditionally supported the Conservative Party’), because both claim to be speaking for the good of the Community. But their case is fundamentally flawed, for the following reasons.
Both criticise Jeremy and Mike for standing against incumbent MPs who are friends of the Community. Mike Freer and Matthew Offord undoubtedly are friends of the Community and of Israel. It was particularly good that in February in a debate on the settlements, Mike questioned the mantra that ‘the settlements are illegal’ (indeed, there is no justification for that statement). (Though I was astonished when earlier he suggested that it was inappropriate to show the Israel flag at a rally against anti-semitism).
But Mike and Matthew represent the Party in Government – and that Party has been exceptionally supportive of the Community (again with notable exceptions – supporting UN Resolution 2334 and failing to stamp on the Foreign Office mandarins who have reportedly vetoed a Royal visit to Israel). In supporting the interests of their Jewish constituents, they have hardly had to defy the Whip!
The second point is in response to the suggestion (made by both Adam and Jeremy) that Jeremy and Mike should not be standing in constituencies with large Jewish populations (Jeremy would send them to ‘Wales or Essex or deepest Cornwall’, saying ‘why not be brave?’). In both cases I wondered if they were being disingenuous. Selection committees ALWAYS prefer candidates with local ties and local knowledge. Maybe they want Afzhal Khan to be the Labour candidate in Hendon and Jeremy or Mike to stand in Manchester Gorton? Don’t under any circumstances go into the dating industry Adam and Jeremy – stick to your day jobs as lawyers. (And as for ‘not being brave’ – one only has to glance at Twitter to see the abuse that Jeremy is receiving, especially after the appalling Al Jazeera non-investigation).
Adam even writes ‘I would have had no complaint if they had chosen to stand against one of our opponents in parliament.’ But the vast majority of ‘our opponents’ are in the Labour Party – unless Adam wants to send them to Rutland and Melton (an ultra-safe Conservative seat).
But the most important points concern the political dynamics, both in the country at large and in Labour. Most obviously, Labour under Jeremy Corbyn is going to lose many seats on June 8th. The spread bet market suggests a Conservative majority over Labour of 250 versus the current 101 and a working majority of 179 versus the current 17. With this in mind, Jeremy’s comment (‘They are devoted to fighting for the very kind of seats which will hand him power)’ lacks all credibility.
Really important is to focus on the Labour Party. I presume that if Adam and Jeremy wanted to live in a One Party State, they would like me move to Pyongyang (Kim Jong-un is crying out for good Jewish lawyers). Well Jeremy and Mike are playing a pivotal role in resuscitating Labour as a credible Opposition, in particular by breathing new life into the JLM which is in the front line in fighting anti-semitism within the Labour Party. It is those members of the JLM who are also in Labour Against Anti-Semitism who have reported around 4,000 Labour Party members for anti-semitism since last September when Jeremy Corbyn was re-elected as Leader.
Moreover come 9 June, there is a suggestion that Jeremy Corbyn will not stand down until an attempt is made to halve the number of MPs needed to support a leadership candidate (in order to increase the chance of a hard left candidate to succeed him). Both to oppose this change and to continue cleansing Labour (and therefore, society in general) of anti-semitism, it is vital to have Jewish activists playing a full part in the Labour Party.
But how can they play a full part if they do not stand for elected office?
Were the election result in any doubt, I accept that Adam and Jeremy might have a case.
But if my aunt had balls ……….