Labour Jews still critical but endorse Ken Livingstone with a week to go

Ken Livingstone

Ken Livingstone

A group of prominent Jewish Labour supporters who expressed their concerns about Ken Livingstone have now endorsed his candidacy for London Mayor.

A letter sent by the activists – Andrew Gilbert, Neil Nerva, Judith Bara, Jem Stein and Rabbi Danny Rich – to Labour leader Ed Miliband last month came after a meeting at which Mr Livingstone stood by his decision to embrace radical Islamic cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

The group claimed that Mr Livingstone had also suggested Jewish voters would not back Labour because they are rich.

But endorsing him in their latest letter the activists say they are acting with "eyes open and breathing deeply, maybe with a sigh or two" in endorsing him.

They acknowledge that as mayor Mr Livingstone would "irritate, upset and annoy", but encourage Jewish supporters to back him over Conservative rival Boris Johnson.

Mr Livingstone has "regularly upset" them with his position on Israel and his "inappropriate" approaches to political Islamists, they say.

Their letter concludes that voting for the Labour candidate would lead to better results for the Jewish community than the election of Mr Johnson, who would provide "a few laughs, but little service and not much engagement".

"Under Ken as mayor, we will get irritated, upset and annoyed but we will get lots of services and lots of engagement and an improved London."

The latest development comes after Mr Livingstone defended himself at a London Jewish Forum lunch in Hampstead, north west London, on Tuesday. He said his comments regarding "rich Jews" not voting for him had been misunderstood.

"I had come out of the meeting thinking 'well it was heavy going but we cleared the air'. Then I read the letter from Neil and thought 'what a tissue of lies'. I was so angry. I remember thinking that Jonathan Freedland was there and that he would blow all this away," said Mr Livingstone.

In the letter endorsing his run for mayor, the supporters state: "So much about Ken is good for London and even for the Jewish community. Ken's policies on housing, transport, regeneration, business, young people, crime and so much more is streets ahead of Boris.

"It was Ken, who invested in Simcha in the Square, Chanucah in the Square and who cared about our social issues, our demographic issues and engaged with us.

"We credit Ken for his refusal to sit on a platform with the BNP candidate. Ken also opposed the academic boycott of Israeli academics."

The letter is not wholehearted in its support, and includes a number of criticisms of Mr Livingstone.

"We still have not managed to persuade Ken that wealth is not the only major determinant of voting preferences. Ken does not register that Stamford Hill, a poorer community is not totally Labour voting, whilst the more affluent Finchley is not as Conservative voting as he would predict.

"On Israel, Ken's comments are not always beyond the pale. At our meeting, he repeated his commitment to a working two-state policy with strong economic connections between the Israeli and Palestinian communities.

"He also reminded us that he has visited Israel, but has not visited Iraq or Iran. His comments on Israel in his article in the Jewish Chronicle also were equally inoffensive.

"However, we know that there have been moments when this has not been the case. We urge Ken to maintain focus and not to drift away from a peaceful, workable two-state solution if he feels the need to comment in the future."

Fellow Labour supporter Adam Langleben signed the original letter, but not the latest one.

Last updated: 2:44pm, April 26 2012