UK Election Results: Another Term for Israel-Friendly Conservative Government
JNS.org – U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party defeated its most formidable rival, Ed Miliband’s Labour Party, in the May 7 British election. The Conservative Party garnered 331 parliament seats, five more than what was needed for a majority in the House of Commons.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who recently established his own government coalition in the Jewish state, congratulated Cameron on his re-election, stating on Twitter that he looks forward to working with Cameron “on shared goals of peace & prosperity.”
Like the British electorate at large, British Jews likely overwhelmingly supported the Conservative Party, fulfilling the predictions of just one of many British election polls prior to May 7. The poll, conducted by London’s Jewish Chronicle newspaper last month, showed that 69 percent of Jewish voters planned to support the Conservative Party, compared to 22 percent for Labour.
While Miliband’s Jewish background might have created a sense of affinity for some Jewish voters, Miliband has also been heavily criticized for Labour’s stances on Israel, including introducing non-binding legislation last year calling on the U.K. to recognize Palestinian statehood. The British parliament then voted symbolically, 274-12, in favor of requesting that the U.K. recognize a unilaterally established Palestinian state. Miliband also said he would support the recognition of a Palestinian state.
“Ed Miliband is not generally felt to be a reliable supporter of Israel by Jewish British voters we (the Anglo-Jewish Association) have spoken to. In contrast, the Conservatives have been solid supporters of Israel, though not blindly,” Jonathan Walker, president of the U.K.-based Anglo-Jewish Association, recently told JNS.org.
In addition, some Jewish voters have felt that Miliband has not expressed himself as forcefully as Cameron on the issue of rising antisemitism in Britain, nor acknowledged the connection between antisemitism and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel—which Cameron, by contrast, has done.
Since the results of the election have become known, Miliband resigned from his post as Labour leader, as did other party leaders, including the U.K. Independence Party’s (UKIP) Nigel Farage.
UKIP, which advocates for the U.K. to leave the European Union and reduce immigration, and has been accused of racism, particularly against Muslims, has been left with only one seat in the parliament despite appearing to have support from 13 percent of U.K. voters, according to pre-election polls.
UKIP also presents a conundrum for Jewish voters. A YouGov poll showed that UKIP voters were more likely to agree with antisemitic statements than Conservative and Labour voters, but UKIP voters also showed the highest proportion of pro-Israel views in a different YouGov survey that focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Many pundits predicted a major political upheaval in the U.K. given the growth in popularity of smaller political parties such as UKIP prior to the election. It has not turned out that way. Based on comments by Cameron, the prime minister and his party are likely to continue to be somewhat more supportive of Israel and more hostile to antisemitism in Britain than other parties and their leaders. The party is also likely to have a better relationship with Netanyahu’s right-leaning government coalition than Labour would have.
One party that did receive a surge of seats in the parliament might express more opposition to Israel. The Scottish Independent Party (SNP) reportedly gained 50 seats. SNP is the third-largest party in the House of Commons. Its leader, Nicola Sturgeon, recently called for the next U.K. government “to pursue a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine and to support the formal recognition of a Palestinian state.”