I’m surprised by the criticism levelled against Jeremy Newmark and Mike Katz for standing as Labour candidates in Hendon and Finchley and Golders Green. I’m not among those critics.
Within the laws of democratic procedure, everyone is entitled to stand for election where he wishes. It is quite understandable that an aspiring MP would avidly seize an opportunity for candidature wherever it arises.
The Conservative MPs who represented Hendon and Finchley and Golders Green since 2010 and are restanding – Matthew Offord and Mike Freer – are solid Israel supporters and committed advocates for the needs of our community. So it’s absurd to view the candidature of two Jewish Labour activists as an expression of no-confidence in the incumbents. It’s part of established political custom that major parties field candidates in all constituencies, regardless of the prospect of success. No doubt Newmark and Katz consider they could do an equally good or even better job as MPs. In view of the shambolic state of the Labour Party, it’s virtually inconceivable they’ll be given a chance. But they should not be condemned for “having a go” just because they happen to be Jewish.
My criticism of them is the fact that, as active Jews, they can represent a party at all whose leadership is so hostile to Israel and so apathetic about internal anti-Semitism. Both are from Labour’s moderate wing and doubtless detest Corbyn and his obnoxious ideology. But their effective promotion of Corbyn and his extreme left-wing cohorts as the next government is a deplorable and indefensible position.
Why, however, are they contesting unwinnable Labour seats rather than secure ones? I suspect they had little choice. I understand that at this snap election the Labour hierarchy, like the Conservatives, exerted rigid control, over who was selected and where. The prospect of two men with a high Jewish/Zionist profile becoming Labour MPs would be anathema to the current leadership. The opportunity for ultimate success was likely manipulated against them – hence they are where they are.
But are Jewish voters really more inclined to vote for Jewish candidates? Generally, I think not. Jewish issues certainly count. But a good non-Jewish candidate can be as acceptable as any other. The difference the Jewish identities of Newmark and Katz will make to the size of their polls is negligible.
The only situation in which a Jewish candidate can make a significant difference is if he is strictly-Orthodox in a Jewish area.
Alas, we have not seen the like at parliamentary level, simply because a strictly-Orthodox candidate has rarely been selected by a major political party, which is a great shame.
There have for decades been numerous Jews in Parliament, some reaching the highest levels. But the election of an Orthodox MP is highly overdue. Especially with today’s so-called British values of community cohesion, equalities and “protected characteristics”, where practically any culture or allegiance is accepted.
This major deficiency, suggests there is still an unspoken, lingering prejudice. Maybe it’s partly the Orthodox community’s fault for not sufficiently pushing for decision-making positions within political parties.
Whatever the cause, it is high time the matter was seriously and strategically addressed by those with the wherewithal and influence to