Pack away the beach towels and bin those voluminous conference agendas — Parliament is back in business.
As the Commons chamber once again throbs with the cut-and-thrust of political discourse this week after a long summer and autumn dominated by recess, here is my wish-list for the coming months of Westminster action:
Furl the Flags
A full ban on Hezbollah. For months since the Al Quds Day rally in central London politicians have blamed each other for failing to take the appropriate action and proscribe the terror group’s “political wing” in Britain.
But while the issue has become a political football, the idea of supporters of a terrorist group being able to openly wave its flag and chant in support on the streets of this country is no joke. Amber Rudd has the power to act — she has already banned National Action and other neo-Nazi groups which dabble in antisemitism in recent weeks.
Now the Home Secretary needs to get her act together.
In the past I have suggested the Conservatives have had their collective eye off the ball on issues relating to Jews because the Labour alternative is so offensive to the community that the Tories must think they have our votes sewn up. The election showed how wrong such presumptions can be. Ms Rudd, with her blatant leadership ambitions, should take note.
Broaden the debate
We desperately need to get away from arguing over antisemitism, whatever Labour’s wrongs. The Jewish Leadership Council’s meeting with Theresa May at Downing Street last month was most notable for the agenda — it covered welfare issues, domestic violence, education, social integration, helping refugees. I could go on.
Yet our entire political discourse is framed in calculating who is “good for the Jews”, or not, and mulling over Jew-hate. In the past year, much of the debate has moved away from the sort of pointless expressions on Israel and the Palestinians that had dominated the past decade.
The next step is to advance positively towards a scenario where the community is able to focus on what it can do for the country, rather than what our politicians most likely cannot do for us. We need to showcase the best of our organisations and the expertise of their staff. We will all feel better for doing so.
Jeremy — talk to us
That said, two years into his leadership of the Labour Party, and at the JC we’re still waiting for the opportunity to sit down and interview Jeremy Corbyn.
It is said that he has yet to attend a single engagement with a mainstream Jewish group, charity, organisation or media outlet.
If he wants to be considered as a potential Prime Minister, Mr Corbyn needs to start acting like one. He must bite the bullet and do the right thing.
Politicians seriously need to up their game when publishing their seasonal greetings to the Jewish community.
For Rosh Hashanah, Jeremy Corbyn went for a double-helping of “shana tova” in his message; Vince Cable twice implored us to “all work together”, while Theresa May read out her own version with all the enthusiasm of, well, Theresa May.
But the worst offender by an absolute mile was Sir Patrick McLoughlin, the Conservative Party chairman, whose copy-and-paste job could have been pinched from any politician, in any country, in any year, and read like a box-ticking exercise of issues politicians seem to think are the only ones Jews care about: Balfour centenary, tick; Holocaust memorial, tick. It was abysmal.
Given the number of Jewish advisers, MPs and activists knocking about in Westminster, it really shouldn’t be too hard to put together a brief, engaging, humorous note to issue when necessary. I’ll be checking for an improvement at Chanucah.
Vote for kosher
And finally, some kosher grub at the Commons canteen would be helpful. As politicos on all sides tuck into their subsidised cooked breakfasts and booze, is it really too much to ask for an occasional helping of viennas and latkes or a chopped liver sandwich?
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