A politically sophisticated community? Come off it
When you’re editing a newspaper, one of the most frequent questions you ask is: what’s the peg?
I play a little game with myself, constructing tenuous pegs for stories with no apparent link to the JC, just to see if I can find a way, in theory, of getting them in to the paper.
Here’s a variation on that game: linking three recent unconnected events as pegs to make an entirely different point.
The pegs: the retirement of Lord Sacks, the recent ennoblement of three Jewish peers and the new All Party Parliamentary Group on British Jews.
And the point: that we have deluded ourselves for over 30 years with the fiction that we are a politically sophisticated community.
The truth is that we have simply been extremely fortunate to have had a series of Prime Ministers — Thatcher, Blair, Brown and, to a point, Cameron — who “get” us, respect the contribution we have made to this country and are well-disposed to us.
The Mayor of London has a far more direct mandate than any PM. At the moment, we are lucky again it is Boris Johnson.
But it was only five years ago that we had to contend with Ken Livingstone. Remember him? You know, the chap who had the — how best to put it? — problem with Jews.
Imagine if Livingstone had been Prime Minister. Is there anyone who seriously thinks that nothing much would be different for us had he been PM for eight years rather than Mayor?
I’m not suggesting it was ever likely. But I hope it gives you pause for thought about just how lucky we have been to have had those people who actually were PM.
Which brings me to another piece of good fortune: Lord Sacks.
It’s fashionable to dismiss him as having been Jewish Ambassador to the Outside World rather than focused on, well, rabbi-ing to us. As if that was a bad thing!
Instead of thanking our lucky stars that we had a representative who could command the attention of the entire nation with one utterance, we attacked him for it, as if that did a disservice to us.
So much for political sophistication.
And now, before they have even taken their seats, there is a wave of moaning about our three new peers.
Please don’t confuse what you might think about the fact of the House of Lords’ existence with the quality of some of its members. Our three new members are all there on merit — each of them outstandingly gifted (and, as it happens, genuine sophisticates). Cue attacks from the more bovine members of our community.
But there could be no clearer demonstration of my argument than the utter shambles over the creation of the new parliamentary grouping.
I’ve reported on politics in one form or another for 24 years and never before have I witnessed a more bungled, counter-productive, mess — and, let’s be frank, one driven almost solely by the Board of Deputies’ pathetic need to put one over on the JLC.
So the Board is democratic. Gee, whizz. That clearly hasn’t gifted it the ability to think straight.
Instead of attacking the JLC, the Deputies might acknowledge that the members of the JLC also give their time, and often considerable sums of money, for free.
As it happens, a glance through the members and staff of the JLC is a Who’s Who of much of our community’s political nous.
So, of course, we try to undermine its work. Genius.