Admit it: there’s no Jewish vote

Like everyone, Jews have always voted for different parties and along different lines, writes Jennifer Lipman

May 15, 2017 09:31

Given the truth contained within the saying, “two Jews, three opinions”, I’ve always found the idea of there being a single Jewish vote laughable. Those who suggest it have obviously never attended a Seder.

The idea that, as a community, we somehow get together and agree where to cross our ballot paper is ludicrous, as it is when people talk about a definitive female vote, or describe the youth vote as one bloc. It’s either nefarious — an allusion to Jewish control over politics with a strong whiff of Elders of Zion conspiracy-theorising — or reductive, an approach taken by pundits keen to identify trends to form predictions and explanations.

That’s not to say that “community issues” along with perspectives on Israel, don’t influence decisions; equally, as a feminist, I’d be less inclined to vote for someone facing rampant accusations of misogyny. But, like everyone, Jews have always voted for different parties and along different lines.

This year, I almost wish it wasn’t so. For how easy the decision would be if this was just a vote on Jewish lines? How simple then to choose Theresa May, who for all her faults has never wavered on support for our security, condemnation of anti-Jewish hate crimes, and a clear belief in Israel’s right to defend itself. How easy to place your trust in her government to keep Anglo-Jewry safe, to enable faith schools to prosper, to ensure circumcision and schechita are not under threat. And how obvious to run screaming from Jeremy Corbyn, given his pre-leadership warmth towards Hamas and his in-post weakness on antisemitism within Labour’s ranks? How logical not to back the Lib Dems, the erstwhile party of Jenny Tonge and David Ward (albeit both are now non grata).

How easy it would be. The reality is, however, that this vote has to be about local candidates, as it truly should be in a parliamentary system. For this election is not one to choose a prime minister or party of power, or even, really, sign up to a specific legislative agenda. This is not Macron-Le Pen, a battle between fascism and moderation where there is a real fear that the former will triumph.

The polls may be wrong but, after the local elections I doubt they are that wrong. If Corbyn makes it to Downing Street, this vegetarian will eat a chicken sandwich.

Thus, voting for the more pro-Jewish party, or for the more palatable foreign policy approach, is beside the point — Britain’s Jews can rest easy come June 9, regardless of how the seats fall.

Instead it is — or should be — a vote for what competing voices we want in our parliament, a vote to determine the make-up of the opposition, both backbench and traditional. A vote not based on party lines but on who will speak up on house-building, affordable childcare, improving educational standards, supporting our doctors, and, of course, delivering a Brexit that does not make Britain poorer and narrow the horizons for us and our children.

For my generation, it must be a vote for who we think wants to retain an open, outward-looking country, and who wants to pull up the drawbridge to the modern-day incarnations of our ancestors. May will hold on to power; the question must be who will be holding her Government to account.

Whether we are pro or anti Brexit, whatever our views on economic or foreign policy (including Israel) or the positives and negatives of faith-based education, the challenge is to ignore the noise about Corbyn and Brexit, dismiss May’s threats about stability as scaremongering, and choose the MPs we want to see in the Commons.

If that means voting for a party we never thought we’d vote for, or voting tactically, or even against our instincts as British Jews, perhaps that should matter less than in the past.

I don’t yet know who I am voting for, and I’m lucky enough to live in a constituency where I could in good conscience back any candidate. But what I know is that, when I reach the ballot box, my decision will not be based solely, or even predominantly, on my Jewishness.

Instead I will be looking at my prospective MPs and asking; what is their vision for tomorrow? What will they champion; will they fight the corner of those who need their help? Will they represent only their party, or will they be unafraid to stand up for their constituents in difficult moments?

Yes, I’m a Jewish voter. But it’s not the deciding factor, especially in this election.

See all our Election 2017 coverage here

May 15, 2017 09:31

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