It’s no surprise we’re voting Tory

April 18, 2015 11:04

No one who has traced, however crudely, the developing political sociology of British Jewry over the past quarter-century should be the least bit surprised at the findings of the Survation poll of Anglo-Jewish voting intentions, commissioned by the JC and published last week.

Of those Jewish respondents declaring an intention to vote, almost 69 per cent said they would back the Tories, while only 22 per cent said they would vote Labour, less than 3 per cent plumped for the Liberal Democrats, and less than two per cent for Ukip.

We should not be shocked at these results. It is often thought that immigrant communities naturally support the supposed party of the underdog — the Democrats in the United States, Labour in the UK. British Jewry is indeed an immigrant community, but one which has been settled here a very long time. It has never suffered from the worst form of immigrant poverty — namely, poverty of aspiration. And it has — by and large — moved outwards from the original areas of settlement.

More importantly, it has moved upwards. Even in the 1970s and 1980s, when conducting polls of Jewish voters in north London, I found that Jews who protested that they were thoroughly working class, and who were undoubtedly born and brought up in proletarian milieux, were in fact middle class on any objective test.

It is also worth pointing out that, historically, British Jewry has leaned more heavily towards conservatism than towards the socialist camp. British Jewry’s “love affair” with the left lasted barely 40 years — say 1918-1959. On a range of communal issues — not least taxpayer support for Jewish faith schools, it’s the Conservatives who have been seen as the natural friend.

British Jewry’s ‘love affair’ with the left lasted barely 40 years

But there is one other factor at work here, and that’s the perceived attitude of the parties towards Israel. In the US the Democrats have managed to hold on to the bulk of the Jewish vote because they have never allowed themselves to be driven by an anti-Zionist agenda. This is not the case with the British Labour party. Almost two-thirds of the Survation sample thought that David Cameron would have “the best approach as Prime Minister to Israel and the Middle East”. Less than 10 per cent opted for Ed Miliband.

And there comes a point where perceived anti-Zionism merges — fairly or unfairly — into perceived antisemitism. For me, the most breathtaking feature of Boris Johnson’s victory over Ken Livingstone in the 2012 London mayoral contest was a Populus poll, commissioned by The Times, which showed that in a general sample of London voters, 40 per cent cited Red Ken’s attitude to Jews as a major factor in persuading them to vote for Boris.

The City Hall contest also suggested that Jews are unlikely to be abstainers. This is supported by the Survation data. At the 2010 Westminster elections some 12 per cent of the sample did not vote; in May this proportion is likely to be cut in half. An overwhelming percentage of Jews will vote. Few of these votes will be cast for minor parties. In several marginal constituencies, therefore, the Jewish vote will be crucial.

Read more of our Election 2015 coverage here.

April 18, 2015 11:04

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