Clegg: 'I want to put CST out of business'
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Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg paid a warm tribute to the Jewish community this week, describing the Community Security Trust as "the protective cloak over communal Jewish life."
Speaking at the CST's northern fundraising dinner in Manchester on Thursday, Mr Clegg admitted that, fondly as he thought of the charity, "if I'm honest, I would like to put the CST out of business."
He said: "Whatever the weather, whatever the time, CST volunteers will be at every event, providing reassurance, deterrence... and that vital link with the local police.
We all crave a time when the CST is not needed
"Not everyone outside the community understands that. That it is normal for small children to be perfectly comfortable with men on walkie-talkies guarding their Hebrew classes, or synagogues having CCTV, or major events involving airport-style security."
The Liberal Democrat leader said that everyone craved a time "when none of this is needed. But for now, you provide a hugely important service: not just for the Jewish community – I know you do a lot of work to help other faith groups tackle hate crime too."
Mr Clegg spoke of the lessons he had drawn from a visit he made to Warsaw over Rosh Hashanah last month. He said: "I took the opportunity to visit the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial... I laid a wreath for the Jewish people killed in the 1943 Ghetto Uprising, when the Nazis destroyed the largest Jewish community in the world, ending centuries of Jewish life.
"Travelling back , I remembered once hearing antisemitism described as 'a very light sleeper' - easily woken; in a different guise whenever it rises; sometimes dormant, but never entirely gone".
Mr Clegg warned: "Let's be clear: it is not the 1930s – we should not be prophesying doom. But, equally, we cannot be complacent. History teaches us that economic insecurity and political introversion are an open invitation to populists and xenophobes. Fear and uncertainty create opportunities for those who wish to peddle hate."
Earlier he drew a wry smile from his Manchester audience who have witnessed the back-door arguments over speakers for the Big Tent conference, when he praised the community's "phenomenal capacity to work in coalition: Orthodox, Reform, Liberal, Masorti..."
To some amusement, Mr Clegg admitted: "I'd be grateful for any tips."