Andrew Gilbert

A new generation of young Jewish political leaders

Council elections every four years are as intense as any general election and they nearly as important – more so than the low turnout indicates.

Last week’s was, thankfully, no longer about Jeremy Corbyn and his followers  but shaped by the experiences we all endured during his disgraceful period of leadership of the Labour Party.  Four years on the evil has mainly gone, though there are remaining issues that will need to be confronted – both overt and in the shadows. We have slayed some dragons while others have fled.  The clean up and clear out must continue.  

Across London the number of Jewish Labour councillors has gone up to 44 from 35 and the number of Jewish Conservative councillors down to 35 from a high of 39.  In 2014 there were 42 Jewish Labour councillors. There is also a record number of 22 London boroughs now have Jewish councillors. In Barnet there are now 11 Conservative and 10 Labour councillors, compared to 16 Conservative and five Labour councillors at the 2018 council elections.

Jon Lansman and his coterie abolishing Labour Students (NOLS) and the nastiness of the Labour Party made the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) a safe space for Jewish members, but also for other Labour party members who became friends and placed JLM in a new central role in the Labour community.

JLM and friends campaigned en masse in Barnet and Camden leading to the election of young stars like Liron Velleman and Ella Rose in Barnet and Izzy Lenga and Rebecca Filer in Camden. Young JLM figures were elected in other areas too with Jack Mayorcas winning Trinity the pivotal ward in Wandsworth, and Miriam Mirwitch elected in Waltham Forest.

In Redbridge, Gabe Milne, as agent and Lloyd Duddridge being elected and Daniel Morgan-Thomas being re-elected. In Hackney, the re-election of Sam Pallis. Add to that Nathan Boroda’s re-election in Bury, Peter Mason, former national secretary of JLM, now leader of Ealing where Labour were re-elected with a slightly increased majority.

The generation of young Jewish Labour leaders and their friends will be the local and national political figures of decades to come.   They are not just a cohort but a cadre of leadership who will work together, where the shared experience of standing up against the far left and antisemitism is central to their values.

The community needs to maintain vigilance on all political parties as they all have problems.

It is somewhat amazing that there are now four Jewish leaders of London councils (Damien Egan in Lewisham, Georgia Gould in Camden and Kaya Comer Schwartz in Islington in addition to Peter in Ealing).  In Barnet, by the way there has never been a Jewish council leader, but other people can comment on that.

So where and what are the challenges for Labour?

Post pandemic recovery is everyone’s challenge and so is climate action.  As a community mainly in outer London the next four years will see further initiatives that need not to divide communities but find ways to unite them.  How should outer London boroughs respond to eco-buildings/retrofit, to cleaner air and green spaces.  Is it possible to come to consensus and move forward on active travel.

The pandemic and Corbyn/Johnson/Trump/Patel (delete and insert as you wish) have not helped cohesion and we saw record numbers of Jewish hate crime in London, the re-election of Lutfur Rahman in Tower Hamlets (a place already with disproportionately high antisemitic attacks) and the need to continue to pressure the Labour party in areas including Harrow, Haringey and Brent to continue the clear out of those who enable antisemitism and are opposed to Sir Keir Starmer’s improvements to the Labour Party.

The community needs to maintain vigilance on all political parties as they all have problems. Former Corbynistas being accepted in Green and Lib Dems. Islamaphobes, homophobes, antisemites and those who dress as Nazis are present in the Conservative Party.

In Harrow there were no Jews standing for Labour. In Haringey despite a lot of support from political leadership local activists did not select Rabbi David Mason and Mark Grosskopf in the winnable seats in which they should have been selected.  David Mason was part of an incredible campaign in Crouch End and lost out by just 30 votes. The antisemitism in Brent including the most senior levels and the treatment of Phil Rosenberg by those running the Brent selection process will be amongst the challenges for re-elected Neil Nerva and the Brent “sensibles”.

Newham, meanwhile, now has two Jewish councillors with the election of GMB member Simon Rush.

Looking back on the lists we did for Jewish News, so many of those names are going on to become leaders in the Jewish community,

The success in Barnet, Camden and Bury saw a growing Labour vote in areas with Jewish communities.  Many of them are local community organisers, as familiar to us in the Jewish community as they are in the Labour party.  They were mentored by supportive local Labour leadership who have built on Sir Keir Starmer’s decisive action on antisemitism. This led to local Labour party activists selecting Jewish candidates. They are symbols of the change in the party after Corbyn.

Talking of the Conservatives, they also had some success in London, in Harrow where Zak Wagman was amongst those elected.  He appeared on the first of the 25 under 25 lists in his mid teens as Harrow youth parliament. For some they come to leadership suddenly for many it has been on the cards for ever.

Looking back on the lists we did for Jewish News so many of those names are going on to become leaders in the Jewish community, in local and in national leadership and also as London Jewish Forum works with civil servants, with the NHS, with the police we find former leaders of UJS and our youth movements as commanders in the metropolitan police and at the forefront of the health service.

When I look back we also omit people we should have included! Josh Tapper who stood for Labour in Edgwarebury got so close in an absolutely safe Conservative seat – who knew the Gogglebox teenage star would take a step to being an MP.

Then there are those new 20s somethings who were never on our radar who now may well become big names of the future such as Matthew Perlberg, who was elected for Labour in pivotal Childs Hill or Ruby Sampson who was elected for the Conservatives in Cockfosters.

As for the Barnet Conservatives this cloud could have a silver lining they can refresh and regroup.

About the Author
Andrew Gilbert is a London Jewish Forum Trustee
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