Blame toxic Ed for Labour's loss of support

November 24, 2016 23:26

Even though, anecdotally, Ed Miliband’s unpopularity with the Jewish community has long been the received wisdom, these figures are jaw-dropping.

Few would have predicted that his personal polling would be quite so disastrous. How, after all, could a Jewish politician make such a terrible fist of attracting Jewish voters?

A combination of issues are to blame – most obviously positioning himself as Israel’s chief political critic during last summer’s Gaza conflict and then backing unilateral Palestinian statehood.

Both may have been popular among some Labour supporters and MPs, but they have holed Mr Miliband’s relationship with the Jewish community beneath the waterline.

His Jewish supporters regularly cite his trip to Israel last Pesach as a high point of his leadership. As this poll shows, its benefits were clearly undone by what followed.

Why, one has to wonder, having observed David Cameron’s love-bombing of British Jewry for the past two years, did Labour not bother at any point to respond in its own way? There are more than enough Israel-supporters in Mr Miliband’s shadow cabinet to have made an impact.

Instead Downing Street has been given a more or less free hand to make the running. Mr Cameron’s speeches to the Holocaust Educational Trust, UJIA, Norwood, Community Security Trust and Conservative Friends of Israel – backed up by policies to support British Jews and Shoah survivors – may not be bettered for a generation. His own trip to Israel and landmark address at the Knesset were the icing on the cake.

Our poll also shows that observers have been right to ask in recent years whether British Jews will ever again vote Lib Dem in serious numbers. Why did Nick Clegg and party leaders not act more decisively against David Ward?

The efforts of senior Lib Dems to enforce an arms embargo on Israel last summer at the height of the conflict will also be long-remembered. Attracting just two per cent of Jewish voters next month would leave the party as also-rans in the community’s eyes – even if Mr Clegg finds a way back into coalition government.

It also rubbishes the suggestion that Ukip has any groundswell of support within the community.

But it is for Labour and Ed Miliband that this poll is so overwhelmingly damning. Clearly British Jews see both the party and its leader as toxic on issues concerning the Middle East and the Jewish community. The days when Tony Blair’s departure from Downing Street was hastened by his defence of Israel during the Lebanon War feel long ago.

Our community is sufficiently small that little of this will make much difference in the final reckoning. The Jewish electorate will not decide who is Prime Minister after May 7, but this poll does go some way to suggesting what might happen in a number of constituencies that would be essential for a Labour victory.

Replicated on polling day, these levels of support could be decisive in Tory-held marginal seats such as Hendon, Finchley and Golders Green and Ilford North – all of which Labour must win. But they could even call into question Labour-held seats such as Bury South and Leeds North East.

There are few silver linings for Jewish Labour supporters. Even if Mr Miliband makes it into Downing Street a month from now, what would his working relationship with the community look like?

It is that prospect which will be of concern to so many people – including politicians, communal leaders and, of course, voters.

November 24, 2016 23:26

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