Jew and Muslim are Conservative co-chairs

By Martin Bright, May 13, 2010
Sayeeda Warsi and Andrew Feldman are the Conservative co-chairs

Sayeeda Warsi and Andrew Feldman are the Conservative co-chairs

A Jew and a Muslim have been appointed joint chairs of the Conservative Party in a bold attempt to establish David Cameron’s credentials as a modernising leader who can reach out across British society.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a 39-year-old lawyer from Dewsbury, who was shadow communities spokeswoman, will serve as Britain’s first Muslim Cabinet member.

She leapt to public prominence after her combative performance on Question Time alongside BNP leader Nick Griffin.

Her co-chairman, fashion tycoon Andrew Feldman, was at Oxford with the Prime Minister and was a key fundraiser for the Cameron leadership bid.

He is an active member of Westminster Synagogue and a supporter of Jewish Care.

The Jewish establishment has welcomed the new Liberal-Conservative government, which has appointed a number of prominent supporters of Israel to the Cabinet.

In a measured statement, the Board of Deputies said it: “warmly welcomes the new Prime Minister, David Cameron and his coalition Conservative/Liberal Democrat Government and acknowledges the achievements of the outgoing Government.

"In our role as representative body for British Jewry we look forward to a constructive, fruitful working relationship with Mr Cameron, his Cabinet and his wider team together with a continued, regular dialogue with politicians of all parties and key civil servants. 

"The Board has always had good relations with all three mainstream parties and intends to maintain these in the future."

Stuart Polak, director of Conservative Friends of Israel, said: “We are delighted to see David Cameron as Prime Minister in Downing Street and William Hague as Foreign Secretary.

"Israel and the Jewish community can feel assured that their issues and concerns will be addressed and taken seriously by the government. I have every confidence that pledges the Conservatives made before the election on important foreign and domestic issues will be implemented.”

Defence Secretary Liam Fox is known to be hawkish on the Middle East and will champion Israel’s cause in Cabinet.

On the touchstone issue of universal jurisdiction, the Tories are committed to legislative change to stop magistrates issuing warrants for visiting Israeli politicians. There is concern in some circles about the commitment of Attorney General Dominic Grieve.

However, the new Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, who would be responsible for pushing through the law change, is a recent visitor to Israel with CFI and considered a safe pair of hands.

The new Schools Secretary Michael Gove is a vocal champion of faith schools. Before the election, he committed his party to funding security around Jewish institutions.

Mr Gove is also understood to favour a change in the legislation to reverse the JFS Supreme Court ruling that decided its admissions policy breached race discrimination law.

Hannah Weisfeld, of the Jewish Action Forum, which represents a number of charities and campaign groups, paid tribute to the outgoing administration.

She said: “The last government led globally in the fight against poverty, alongside taking a lead within Europe to reduce carbon emissions. It’s essential that the new coalition government continues in this vein and protects the interests of the world’s most vulnerable, whilst making tough economic decisions.”

Last updated: 11:55am, October 6 2010