Election 2010: Have the leaders done enough?

April 29, 2010

It is a sign of how seriously the main parties take our community that all three leaders have, in recent weeks, answered a series of questions posed by the JC.
This week, Nick Clegg is joined in our pages by William Hague and Peter Mandelson.

They want our votes. But although it is debatable whether there is such a thing as the “Jewish vote”, there are certainly issues which are at the forefront of our minds; issues such as antisemitism, the organisation of faith schools, the Middle East peace process and the threat posed by radical Islam.

When it comes to tackling antisemitism, they all say the right things. But then what mainstream party would not claim to have it as a priority? A commitment to tackling antisemitism is as much of a given as promoting prosperity and defending the realm. But in some areas there are real differences. While all three parties claim to be supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself, such words can bely behaviour which does not bear them out.

Nick Clegg has called for an arms embargo on Israel, and William Hague has been a consistent critic of the IDF’s conduct. The Labour government actually expelled an Israeli diplomat. It is not, at election time, our place to make a judgment; that is your prerogative. We simply raise the issues. Many Jews, for instance, are concerned by the Conservative Party’s new Latvian and Polish allies within the European Parliament. But the party’s pledge to allow parents to open new schools is clearly especially attractive to our community, as is the promise that school security will be fully funded.

As for Labour, Gordon Brown’s refusal to deal with universal jurisdiction before the election is seen by many as a betrayal; but he has been clear that he will act if returned to power. So, too, has David Cameron, although Nick Clegg gives no such undertaking in our interview. And while the LibDem leader has consistently refused to withdraw the whip from Baroness Tonge, who seems barely able to open her mouth without an antisemitic cliché falling out, so he has also ignored the latest outburst from a LibDem — Lord Wallace, at last week’s Board of Deputies meeting.

There seems to be a worrying pattern in his inaction. But Labour is hardly pure in this respect: Martin Linton and Sir Gerald Kaufman are still candidates for the party, despite having used language as bad as anything we have heard from Baroness Tonge.
What is certainly clear from our coverage of the campaign is that, despite the pervasive idea that most people yawn when the word politics is mentioned, there is nevertheless a huge appetite for political debate — for discussion of the issues which matter to us as individuals and as a community (or, perhaps more accurately, as a community of communities). That is healthy — even if some of that appetite is driven by issues which we would all rather did not exist. But it also means that the BNP will not be able to rely on the apathy from moderate voters which it needs.

On Thursday, all these issues — and, of course, much more besides — have to be distilled down to one simple x on ballot papers. We should always be thankful for the privilege of the vote. And we should all use it.

Last updated: 3:18pm, April 29 2010