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May 14, 2015 5:46 pm

The UK General Election and the Jews

avatar by Josephine Bacon

Ed Miliband. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The result of the recent UK General Election is that the Conservatives, under Prime Minister David Cameron, have managed to stay in power.

But despite the hysterical headlines in the overwhelmingly right-wing British press, his majority is tiny. He only has two members of parliament more than the massed ranks of the official Opposition, which now contains Labour, the Scottish Nationalists, the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).

The first four opposition parties range from mildly progressive (the Liberal Democrats) to center left (the Labour Party) to extreme leftists masquerading as environmentalists (the Greens). In fact, without the huge win of the Scottish Nationalists, the collapse of the Liberal Democrats, and the fact that many disgruntled Laborites voted UKIP – in other words, if it had been a traditional two-horse race – the Conservatives would have lost.

What does this mean for the Jews? Well, even though the most vocal anti-Israel members of parliament, George Galloway and David Ward, have been defeated – it still leaves a few extremists. It is part of the Greens’ official policy to boycott Israel – but fortunately they only retained their one seat. There is also concern about the new clutch of Muslim members of parliament. One of them, the newly elected Labour MP Rupa Haq, who ousted a conservative, made some vicious remarks about Israel at a pre-election meeting of the Palestine Solidarity Movement, including several negative references to Ed Miliband, the leader of her Party, as being Jewish.

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If Ed Miliband’s Jewishness did not go down well with the Muslim voters, it did not impress the Jews either. Surprisingly, despite the fact that the Jewish population of the U.K. is now tiny (290,000, 0.459% of the general population, as opposed to the Muslims, with 2,660,116, 5.02% of the population), two marginal London seats—Hendon and Finchley, both containing a large Jewish population—voted Conservative. In a third case, the sitting Jewish Conservative MP for Ilford North, Lee Scott, was ousted by his non-Jewish Conservative rival, though this was mainly due to the influx of Muslim residents.

Clearly, the Jews were not comfortable with Ed Miliband. To recap on the history of his selection as leader, Ed and his brother David, the former foreign secretary in Tony Blair’s government, were among the original five contenders for the Labor Party leadership in 2010. David was by far the most popular choice of the individual Labour voter, and the leader the general population would have chosen had they been allowed to vote, as many straw polls revealed.

But Ed had the block vote of the labor unions, so he won. His Jewishness was certainly a factor in the Muslim vote as picked up from remarks in the street and  the right-wing press (especially the Daily Mail, supporters of Hitler in the 1930s) who called his father a “foreigner” and a “communist” (Ralph Miliband was a Holocaust survivor who came to the U.K. penniless and eventually became a university lecturer).

The problem for Jewish voters, who I believe are often better educated and better informed than the average Briton, is that Ed never truly identified with the Jewish population. He has also made quite a few pronouncements that Jews see as being hostile to Israel. His mother is a member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians and Ed recently expressed his opposition to the latest war in Gaza.

Despite suddenly waking up at the last minute to the fact that at least two North London seats depended on the Jewish vote, and expressing belated support for Israel, Ed failed to gain the trust of the Jewish community. The view was expressed by Jews quite early on in the campaign that having a Jewish prime minister would be bad for the Jews – and this came through loud and clear at the ballot box. Of course, on the BBC’s politics talk shows no one dares mention this obvious fact.

Now that Ed has resigned, will his brother David dare to make a come-back into British politics? Could Britain get a Jewish prime minister after all?

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