Jack Mendel
Jack Mendel
Online Editor at Jewish News

Why Sadiq in City Hall could help mend relations with Labour

There is a mounting list of problems between the Jewish community and the Labour Party, so let’s not start creating imaginary ones over Sadiq Khan.

During his campaign to be Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has had to wade through a swamp criticism mainly hinged on controversy in his political party.

Yet, Khan seems to understands that dwindling support for the party within the Jewish community is due to its critical stance on Israel. And, he has also proactively tried to tackle the more recent stream of anti-Semitism allegations.

Criticism of the party has ranged from the leadership’s links to extremist groups and views, to activists at the grassroots level expressing anti-Semitic bile.

The underlying feeling is the party just doesn’t ‘get it’ on anti-Semitism.

But, it’s precisely because Jewish Londoners are uneasy about supporting Labour as a result of this, that Sadiq has worked overtime to win our backing.

In my professional dealings with Sadiq Khan, interviewing him during the current election campaign at the CST, he seems to get the problem, whilst Tory hopeful Zac Goldsmith seems to simply be lying low.

Goldsmith has hoped that he can sit back whilst the vultures pick at the Labour carcass over anti-Semitism.

But this hasn’t worked, because Sadiq has reached far beyond what is necessary, and shown his intention. To act, not just talk.

Sadiq Khan has gone on the offensive to marry together a consciousness of the problems at the heart of the party, with a sincerity to do something about them.

Whether he would act on those feelings is obviously unknown, but he has certainly been more proactive and determined than his Tory opponent.

At Tuesday’s Jewish News hustings, he repeated his commitment to fighting anti-Semitism with a focus on his own party, calling it a “badge of shame”. He suggested senior members of Labour’s NEC should be trained in identifying it.

His approach has been to woo the community, and it’s not been easy. In reaching out in this way, he’s faced a lot of criticism.

One only has to look through his Facebook and Twitter accounts when he links to activities such as visiting Golders Green or the CST, before hatred bubbles to the surface. Allegations of cozying up to ‘Zionists’, and ‘the Jews’ are plentiful.

He’s engaging, putting his own neck on the line, and saying how he’d tackle problems, and what has our response been?

It’s been to push him away.

Claiming the relationship between the community was under ‘deep strain’, Board of Deputies president Jonathan Arkush said in an interview last month: “Frankly most people in the Jewish community can’t trust Labour”, ahead of the mayoral elections.

He said, this was in spite of the fact that “Sadiq Khan, I say straight away, is a good candidate, who has done everything he could to distance himself from the far Left.”

In other words, whatever Sadiq does, he’ll always be tainted. There’s a ball and chain on his foot.

It’s time to face the facts.

We have a problem with Labour because of multi-layered trust issues. Sadiq has un-bashfully tried to tackle them, and is not one of the problems we have.

It makes no sense to dismiss him simply because of his party.

If you’re unsure of who to vote for, bear in mind that we can only heal the relationship, if we recognise our friends and foes.

Sadiq has proactively tried to fix the relationship problems, and it’s important he is not arbitrarily pushed away.

About the Author
Jack Mendel is Online Editor at Jewish News UK
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