Elections 2014: Labour the big winners in London and the north
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Camden Labour winner Phil Rosenberg
On a night when Ukip made significant gains across the country, in areas of high Jewish population it was Labour that was the big winner.
Ed Miliband’s party made significant advances in four London boroughs with sizeable Jewish communities, placing it in a leading position to capture seats at next year’s general election.
Labour seized Brent council from the Liberal Democrats. The Hampstead and Kilburn constituency — parts of which fall within Brent — will a key battleground next May.
It also took control of Harrow Council and Redbridge Council — the latter a result that could affect the Ilford North constituency.
There was notable success for Labour in Barnet’s West Hendon ward, where Adam Langleben and Devra Kay were elected. Mr Langleben said: “What we saw were huge swings towards Barnet Labour. We made good gains, which we are encouraged by.”
The West Hendon ward includes Hendon Mosque as well as the strictly Orthodox Jewish community.
Dr Kay, a Yiddish scholar, said: “I stood decades ago as a paper candidate when I had three children under five. Now I’ve got time and I’m really thrilled to be elected.”
There were doses of both mazel and misery for Jewish contenders standing for parties across the political spectrum.
In Barnet — the country’s most Jewishly populated borough — there were a series of disappointments for candidates who had been hoping to secure a seat on the council for the first time.
Devra Kay, a Labour victor in Barnet
Child’s Hill ward — which has had three Jewish councillors for more than 40 years — was one of the last to be declared at last Friday’s count and became a focal point, with the fate of the entire council resting on whether three Liberal Democrats were elected. Only one was, but the ward remained all-Jewish.
Veteran Lib Dem councillor Jack Cohen held his seat — by only nine votes and he was joined by Tories Shimon Ryde and Peter Zinkin, who is a former vice-president of the United Synagogue and ex-chair of Golders Green Synagogue.
Former Conservative cabinet member Robert Rams was among the most high-profile losers, missing out in East Barnet to Labour’s Philip Cohen.
One newcomer was Gabriel Rozenberg, son of journalists Melanie Phillips and Joshua Rozenberg.
Among the Barnet Jewish stalwarts re-elected were Tories Brian Gordon, Eva Greenspan, John Marshall, Danny Seal, Melvin Cohen, his son Dean, Reuben Thompstone, Anthony Finn, Mark Shooter and Maureen Braun.
Labour’s Israeli-born member Alon Or-Bach was re-elected, as was Alan Schneiderman. The party also now counts Kitty Lyons and Rebecca Challice among its Jewish contingent.
The results left the Conservatives clinging to the borough by just one seat, with one ward still to vote next month.
Phil Rosenberg, the Board of Deputies’ public affairs director, helped to make it a miserable election for the Liberal Democrats. The 28-year-old was part of a Labour trio that ousted the Lib Dems from West Hampstead ward in Camden, enabling Labour to increase its majority in the borough.
He dismissed claims that his own political leanings and the impending arrival of former Labour government minister Gillian Merron as the Board’s new chief executive indicated that the Board was — in the view of one Conservative supporter — “left of centre”.
Mr Rosenberg said: “We’ve got prominent members from all the parties. The Board works across all parties on behalf of the community. The leaders of the Conservatives, Lib Dems and Labour all endorsed our European manifesto. I would say, judge us on our record.”
Keith Fraser stood for Ukip in the Totteridge ward in Barnet. He received nearly 500 votes but finished some 1,600 behind the three eventual Conservative winners.
He said: “I was ahead of the Lib Dems —but then who isn’t these days?”
Israeli-born Labour candidate Tal Ofer was unsuccessful in his attempt to be elected to Redbridge Council, narrowly losing out to three Conservatives.
He said: “I feel encouraged by the result because we lowered the Conservatives’ majority to a mere 100 votes. I think we are well-positioned to win Ilford North in the general election.”
Other Labour Jewish councillors were celebrating the party’s showing in the capital. Israeli-born Natan Doron helped Labour to take two out of three seats in previously Lib Dem Crouch End in Haringey.
Daniel Anderson, 46, was one of two Labour victors in the previously Conservative ward of Southgate Green in Enfield, defeating fellow Cockfosters and North Southgate Synagogue member, radio presenter Jon Kaye, who stood for the Tories.
“People focus on MPs and think they have power to do things,” Mr Anderson said. “But it is on local councils where most people’s lives are affected day to day.”
London Jewish Forum member Neil Nerva, who lost his seat in 2006 after eight years on Brent Council, returns to the town hall. The results overall, he said, “show that the Jewish community feels comfortable with Labour”.
The red swing dashed the hopes of opposition parties of making any headway in the Labour stronghold of Hackney.
Tory Harvey Odze regained the seat he lost four years ago, standing in Springfield, a ward with a large Charedi population and the only one in the borough where all three councillors are Conservative.
Mr Odze said his reaction was “satisfaction, tinged with regret. Satisfaction in that we bucked the national trend and kept the same number of councillors as were elected in 2010”.
All four Conservative representatives on the 58-member council are Charedi, as are two of the three Lib Dems.
Jeremy Zeid, chairman of Ukip in Harrow, failed to get elected in the Kenton East ward. He secured 453 votes but finished ninth out of 10 candidates.
Conservative councillor Jonathan Bianco was re-elected in the north-west London borough of Hillingdon.
Peter Mason, a former executive director of the London Jewish Forum, won a seat for Labour on Ealing Council.
Anti-Israel voices look to be strengthened in Liverpool, where the Green Party became the official opposition to Labour for the first time after the Lib Dem collapse. Two Green councillors attempted to exclude Israel from the International Festival of Business in the city earlier this year.
Dr Richard Wenstone was elected as a Labour councillor in Liverpool’s Church ward, and joins Jeremy Wolfson to make it the first time two Childwall Hebrew Congregation members have sat together on the council.
Salford, in Lancashire, the most heavily Jewish-populated area outside London, has only one Jewish councillor, Labour’s Howard Balkind. Conservative candidate Rabbi Arnold Saunders was not elected.
Mr Balkind held his seat in the Swinton South ward by 130 votes. He said: “More Jewish representation would be fantastic. Salford lacks diversity in the council, totally. There are hardly any black councillors and no Muslims.”
In Bury, Lancashire, Jewish representation has fallen to only two councillors, down from six in 2010.
Conservative Bernie Vincent lost his seat. The 72-year-old encouraged young Jews to enter local politics: “If they want things done for local communities it’s no good sitting in front of telly watching — you have to get involved.
“Councils are becoming more aware of different religious cultural needs and it’s important the Jewish community is not left behind in that.”
George Galloway’s Respect party made no gains in Bradford. A number of the MP’s colleagues defected last year to sit as independents, and despite Mr Galloway touring the city in an open-top bus to support party candidates, there are now no Respect members in the council chamber.
Barnet - Conservative hold
Redbridge - Labour gain
Hackney - Labour hold
Bury - Labour hold
Salford - Labour hold