Board president hits right note over mood music change

June 23, 2011 14:10

So the President of the Board of Deputies has said the leadership of the Jewish community has access but no influence. Isn't this just as it should be?

This newspaper and the Board are the first to cry foul when there is any suggestion from conspiracy theorists that the tiny British Jewish community can fix government policy on Israel or radical Islam. And quite rightly so.

It is essential that senior and respected figures in the faith and ethnic communities have access to ministers. It is also quite proper that they should attempt to persuade them of their point of view on a range of policy issues. But influence is a highly-charged word, fraught with poisonous historical suggestions of conspiracy and corruption.

However, Vivian Wineman is right to point out that there has been a shift in the political mood music.

When Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were Prime Minister there was no need to use the language of influence. The two great rivals were united in their commitment to Israel and to British Jewry and their support was written into their political DNA. They didn't need persuading.

David Cameron can talk the talk and even, at the relevant community dinners, he can walk the walk. But he does not appear to have the same visceral kinship (despite his Jewish lineage). The same is true of Ed Miliband. There is no reason to expect they should.

One reason for the change in the political weather has nothing to do with Middle East policy or a subtle shift in Whitehall's attitude towards the Jews. All new governments take time to bed in and each new administration manages its relationships in a different way. David Cameron came to power in the middle of a serious economic crisis and in every department of his government the focus is on deficit reduction and holding the Coalition together.

This is a new era and it is a mark of the respect accorded the Jewish community that ministers still find time to give its leaders the access they once had. They should not expect influence.

The political class is still largely pro-Israel and pro-Jewish, but there is no reason for complacency. This government is very different from the last and people with access need to find new ways of using it to make their case.

June 23, 2011 14:10

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