Its ironic that despite having its first Jewish born leader the British Labour party’s relationship with the country’s Jewish community is at an all time low.
I say Jewish born because Labour leader Ed Miliband comes from that part of the Jewish world which boasts more about its Communist antecedents than its Jewish ones. To be fair Miliband has never claimed involvement with the community but on occasion has expressed sympathy and understanding of it.
The expressions of faith and solidarity have never been translated into actions . He condemned Israel’s invasion of Gaza without condemning Hamas. When the Palestinians were hunting votes at the United Nations for recognition of their statehood the Labour party’s foreign affairs spokesman was instructed by Miliband to urge the Conservative Government to support the application. The Government in fact abstained.
Though this strained relations it never broke them. The community like a star crossed lover is always anxious to give the affair another try.. Like with most lovers tiffs when the affair becomes a menage a trois , a three sided affair, then the fur really starts to fly..
Step forward Ken Livingstone, twice Mayor of London and looking for a third term in office against the formidable Conservative incumbent Boris Johnson. Livingstone until recently has been fronting programmes for Iranian Press TV and taking their petrol soaked payments, less charitable folks might use the term blood stained , and also welcoming some of the most vile Muslim hate preachers to the UK. The cleric Sheik Yusef al-Qaradawi, who openly supported the use of suicide bombers against Israeli’s was described by Livingstone as a moderate because he did not advocate their use in the United Kingdom.
Details of this fractious love affair became public knowledge when it was revealed by the Jewish Chronicle newspaper that a secret meeting had taken place between Livingstone and a group of Jewish community leaders ranging from rabbis to businessmen.who support the party.
There was no meeting of minds and to make matters worse Livingstone insisted that Jews would not vote Labour anyway because they were too rich! A distraught group of worthies have now penned a letter to the Labour leader pointing out they have arrived at an impasse.
Livingstone though sails serenely on in preparation for the battle of London. He has long ceased caring what even the most moderate Israeli supporters think of him as he is convinced there are more votes for him in the anti camp than in the pro one. The publication of the content of the meeting and the letter to Miliband leaves the Labour leader in a bind. He can hardly dissociate himself from Livingstone this late in the game, even if he wanted to.
This is not the first time that Livingstone has embarrassed the Labour hierarchy. He won his first mayoral term as an independent. When the Blair Labour party failed to choose him as their candidate he ignored the defeat and ran and beat the official candidate as well as those standing for the other major parties. With the victory Blair and Livingstone formed a marriage of convenience and by the time the next election came along Livingstone was back in the fold and on the road to a second victory. Blair, always the pragmatist, had concluded that if Livingstone was the only Labour mayor of London on offer then he would hold his nose and squeeze him tightly to his bosom.
Despite Blair’s two landslide victories Labour politicians have been falling out of love with the Jews and Israel over a thirty year period. This was enhanced by the fall of the Russian empire. Suddenly the left in Britain had no fixed focal point. The only revolutionaries in town were of the Muslim variety. Misogynist and homophobic they may be with a lust to return to a 7th century way of life and morals but who was to say they could not be turned from one fanatical belief to another.
The left of course have missed a trick. Like the Jews of America British Jews have always been socially progressive and active in the wider community. Two thirds of all Jews who have sat in the House of Commons since the 1930’s have sat on the Labour benches. The Jewish heartlands of North West London though leafy and prosperous are almost always marginal and often return Labour MP’s to the Commons in contrast to the equivalent constituencies in the rest of the Outer London suburbs. They return Conservative MP’s to Parliament in much the same way as the industrial belt of North East England vote Labour. Even a long flirtation with Margaret Thatcher in Finchley did not stop the area returning to Labour after she retired.
With just weeks to go before the mayoral election it’s touch and go who will win. Livingstone, a larger than life character, has always appealed to those with no party allegiance to bolster his vote. But his formidable Conservative opponent Boris Johnson can also lay claim to cross party allegiance.
The bookies believe Johnson will scrape home by a few percentage points. If so it will be with the support of a majority of London’s Jews. In doing so they will have contributed to turning the indestructible Livingstone into a two time loser. With his power base broken a chance may well emerge for Labour and some of its erstwhile most loyal supporters to kiss and make up. The warm embrace though of some top Conservatives may have already made this chance of a reconciliation impossible in this generation.