Boris picks Jewish talent for City Hall

By Dana Gloger, May 9, 2008
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The new mayor of London this week set out several key pledges that will benefit the Jewish community.

Boris Johnson said he would work to provide more affordable housing, especially that of a size suitable for those with larger families.

Many in London’s Charedi community, who live mainly in Stamford Hill, suffer severe overcrowding, with sometimes as many as 11 people living in a two-bedroom flat.

Mr Johnson also promised to continue supporting cultural events in the capital, which are thought to include the Simcha on the Square celebration.

A spokesman for the mayor added: “The JC should keep watching for further announcements from the Mayor as he gets to work on his policy agenda.”

He also confirmed that Mr Johnson was keen to meet the London Jewish Forum.

But on the subject of working with Richard Barnbook, the BNP member elected to the London Assembly, Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “Boris is deeply disappointed that a small but significant number of voters chose to elect a BNP candidate.”

Taking up his new role this week, Mr Johnson appointed several Jews to key advisory positions.

Sir Simon Milton, 46, outgoing leader of Westminster City Council, will be his senior planning adviser.

Speaking exclusively to the JC just half an hour before his first meeting in the new role, Sir Simon said: “I’m looking forward to it. I think I can play a valuable role in that position.”

A member of West London Synagogue, Sir Simon entered into a civil partnership with his Jewish partner Robert Davis, the Tory chief whip at Westminster Council, in a ceremony conducted by Rabbi Mark Winer last year. Sir Simon will continue to be a councillor, although he has stepped down from his position as leader of the council.

He will remain chairman of the Local Government Association.

Dan Ritterband, 32, campaign director for Mr Johnson’s mayoral campaign, will be head of marketing at City Hall. The advertising executive, who was national president of the B’nai B’rith Youth Organisation in 1991, has worked as a troubleshooter for Michael Howard and as a member of David Cameron’s Conservative leadership bid.

Stuart Polak, director of Conservative Friends of Israel, described him as “somebody we trust, we work with, and who is well-known to people in the community. He understands the issues of JC readers very well.”

Mr Ritterband, from Nottingham, said: “I’m very pleased, I always said I was interested in staying on after the elections. It should be very exciting, in the run-up to the Olympics.”

Sir Trevor Chinn will be on the board of a new fund being set up by Mr Johnson to raise money for deprived areas.

Fresh from his defeat, Ken Livingstone said he remained dedicated to working with the Jewish community.

“My commitment to celebrate the Jewish contribution to London and to support the provision of housing to meet the specific needs of the Jewish community is not affected by the election result,” he said.

“However, I do not have the powers of the mayor and it will be important that progressive members of the London Assembly hold the new mayor to account on these matters.”

Mr Livingstone’s former deputy Nicky Gavron, who was re-elected to the London Assembly last week, said: “Ken has made a huge contribution to London and has been a great mayor.”

She added: “Of course I will miss him. We had the most creative working relationship and he was able to seize ideas and see the big picture.”

    Last updated: 3:05pm, May 13 2008