What should this election be about?

With Theresa May’s announcement of a snap election on the 8th June, you might feel like you’re starting to suffer from political fatigue. However, the next 6 weeks will provide the Jewish community with a brief but vital opportunity to debate and fight for the issues that matter. ‘Brexit’ will be the central focus of this election, but it is not the only important issue at stake.

One vital issue is whether the Prime Minister campaigns on a platform of the UK withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights. When recently pressed the Government said it had ‘no plans’ to do this, however, Theresa May has stated publicly many times that she would like the UK to withdraw from the Convention and this General Election provides the opportunity for her to seek a mandate for this.

It’s important to remember that the Human Rights Convention has British, Conservative and Jewish roots, prompted by Churchill after World War Two. Only last month senior Conservative MPs highlighted the significant positive impact the Convention has had, publicly advising her against withdrawal. They wrote that the Convention has been ‘crucial to reducing discrimination’ and ‘a bedrock sustaining and improving human rights […] over 60 years.’ Since the referendum result, the Government have made much of wanting to promote a ‘global Britain.’ Withdrawing from the Convention would signal that we are becoming the opposite of that.

Beyond the matter of the Convention, the election provides us with an opportunity to push our policy makers for answers and promises on other important social justice issues.

More and more individuals are being identified as victims of human trafficking in the UK. How can we better support these vulnerable people? Too many currently end up destitute or unsupported despite the Government’s commitment to tackling modern day slavery.

Or how about the fact that the UK still detains asylum seekers indefinitely. Despite promised reforms, people continue to lose their lives to an immigration detention system which costs the taxpayers millions of pounds to run.

So, if you get the opportunity to question your local candidates here are some key questions you should ask them:

  1. Where do you stand on the European Convention on Human rights?
  2. Do you believe it is time for a time limit on how long we detain asylum seekers in detention centres?
  3. Do you think we can do more to support victims of human trafficking?

In her statement this week, Theresa May said this snap election was about unity. Our experience and history as Jews has taught us this much, that unity must mean ensuring rights for the vulnerable.

About the Author
Sam Grant is the campaigns manager for René Cassin, the UK Jewish Human Rights organisation.