Nine places where a Jewish vote could count

Is there a Jewish vote? And if so, where might it make a difference?

December 05, 2019 15:43

Despite the claims of antisemitic conspiracy crackpots everywhere, Jews don’t actually control the world. We have negligible influence over anything really. The old Yiddish saying “mann tracht, un Gott lacht” captures it; we can make all sorts of plans, but God — or whatever other force you happen to believe in (in my case, it’s usually my wife) — has an uncanny knack of laughing in our faces.

So when it comes to general elections, we have next to no ability to affect the eventual outcome. Even in the constituency with the largest Jewish population — Finchley and Golders Green — 2011 Census data demonstrates we only comprise 21 percent of the whole. I’ve tried to massage that figure to see if I can give us a bit more statistical strength, but even accounting for Jewish population growth in the area since 2011, our older than average age profile and our greater than average tendency to vote, the best I can conjure up is 36 percent. That said, we can’t just blame our size for our lack of influence — Jews in Israel, who comprise 75 percent of the country’s population, are struggling to create a government at all.

Yet it is still tempting to explore where our votes might have the most impact next week. One way of thinking about this is by calculating how many Jews are entitled to vote in each constituency and comparing that number with the size of the majority held in each place. If the former is larger than the latter, our votes there may count a little more.

This is only the case in nine constituencies. Finchley and Golders Green is one: about 23,000 Jews will be eligible to vote there in 2019, and their votes matter a great deal: the sitting MP, Conservative Mike Freer, only holds a majority of 1,657 over Labour. Most polls there are predicting a Tory victory, but none include any kind of ‘Jewish factor’ in their models, so any unexpected volatility among Jewish voters (there’s been some stuff going on with antisemitism in the Labour Party apparently? And a Jewish LibDem candidate?), could affect the accuracy of their projections.

The situation is similar in Hendon, the constituency with the second largest Jewish population. About 16,000 Jews are eligible to vote, and Conservative MP Matthew Offord currently has a majority over Labour of 1,072. But if I was a betting man, I would expect both of these constituencies to remain Conservative and for Jews to help them to do so — polls indicate that most Jews in London will vote for Conservative candidates.

The dynamics in Bury South, in Manchester, are rather more interesting. There are about 9,000 Jews eligible to vote there today in a constituency currently held by Labour with a majority of 5,965. Labour has held this seat rather comfortably since 1997, but constituents voted quite strongly to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum (about 55 percent to 45 percent), so a Conservative gain is distinctly possible, particularly if enough previously Labour-supporting Jews shift their allegiances.

Back in London, Harrow East and Chipping Barnet are worth keeping an eye on. Both have similar size Jewish electorates — about 5,200 in Harrow East and 6,000 in Chipping Barnet. Both are currently Tory seats with slim majorities: 1,757 in Harrow East and just 353 in Chipping Barnet. And both are Remain-leaning: 53% in Harrow East and 59% in Chipping Barnet voted in the referendum to remain in the EU. So the possibility of a shift to Labour in both places — particularly Chipping Barnet — is real, but any anti-Labour tendency among Jews could counteract this.

The tiny majorities that exist in Kensington and Richmond Park — 20 for Labour in Kensington and 45 for the Conservatives in Richmond Park — make them interesting from a Jewish perspective too. The Jewish electorates are small in both places — about 1,500 in Kensington and 800 in Richmond Park— but a significant anti-Labour vote from Jews in either place could make all the difference.

And here are two final curve-balls. Our estimates indicate there may just about be enough Jewish voters in Canterbury to influence the results there (Labour currently holds a majority of 187), and the 60 or so Jewish voters in Southampton Itchen could play a significant role too —the Tories currently have a majority of 31.

So keep an eye on these nine constituencies on December 12. Jews don’t control the world, but in these places at least, we may just have a little bit of sway.


Jonathan Boyd is executive director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR)

December 05, 2019 15:43

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