BNP and MPAC fail to sway electorate

MPAC failure and pro-Israel wins seal a good day


Jewish and pro-Israel candidates performed well in the general election, despite a leafleting campaign by the Middle East Public Affairs Committee (MPAC) in some constituencies and the efforts of the BNP in others.

Arguably the biggest winner was in Harlow, Essex, where Robert Halfon, political director of the Conservative Friends of Israel, toppled former Armed Services Minister Bill Rammell, with a near-5,000 majority.

It became a win double for the CFI when former chairman Richard Harrington took Watford, where sitting MP and former Justice Minister Claire Ward came third behind the Lib Dems.

Mr Harrington said: "My opponents very much tried to bring up the Israel issue and use it against me but the electorate realised I'm a very moderate person in my views, and it was irrelevant to the Watford electorate."

One big change was the defeat in Hendon of one of Israel's staunchest supporters, Labour's Andrew Dismore. He lost to Tory Matthew Offord by the tiny margin of 106 votes, after a recount. Also out of the House - on the other side of the political spectrum - was Respect's George Galloway in Poplar and Limehouse, beaten into third place by Labour farming and environment minister Jim Fitzpatrick.

Luciana Berger, the 28-year-old former director of Labour Friends of Israel, came home in style in Liverpool Wavertree, gaining more than half of all votes cast and increasing Labour's majority. She won despite being "ambushed" with questions about her local knowledge and accusations of being "parachuted" in from London.

Her election puts her next door to Louise Ellman, who held her Liverpool Riverside seat comfortably and with a very small swing to Labour.

In the only constituency where two Jewish candidates went head-to-head, Foreign Office Minister Ivan Lewis beat off an eight per cent swing to the Tories and a strong challenge from Michelle Wiseman, chief executive of Manchester Jewish Community Care. In Leeds North East, Labour's Fabian Hamilton retained his seat despite being caught up in the expenses scandal, while Mike Gapes increased his majority in Ilford South despite a bitter stand-off with anti-Israel extremist members of MPAC. Sir Gerald Kaufman held his seat in Manchester Gorton.

Labour's John Mann, chair of the Parliamentary Committee Against Antisemitism, retained his seat in Bassetlaw, north Nottinghamshire, with an 8,977 majority over Tory Keith Girling. His Labour colleague Denis MacShane, who chaired the committee's ground-breaking inquiry in 2006, also held on to Rotherham, despite being the target of a campaign by MPAC.

The BNP was routed, losing at both national and local level. Labour's Margaret Hodge trounced BNP chairman Nick Griffin in Barking on the back of a significantly increased turnout.

Conservative Lee Scott beat off an attempt to oust him by MPAC in Ilford North. The anti-Israel Muslim group gave their support to Labour candidate Sonia Klein, but she finished 5,404 votes behind Mr Scott.

Other Tories who retained their seats included Oliver Letwin (Dorset West), and former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind in Kensington and Chelsea. Grant Shapps, a former leader of BBYO, held Welwyn Hatfield with a majority that increased by 11.1 per cent over his 2005 triumph to an impressive 17,423, while Shadow Defence Secretary Dr Julian Lewis held New Forest East.

One new Jewish name on the Tory benches is 43-year-old barrister Michael Ellis, who snatched Northampton North for the Conservatives with a seven per cent swing, giving him a 1,936 majority over the sitting Labour MP Sally Keeble.

Television personality Esther Rantzen's campaign as an independent in Luton South foundered and she finished fourth behind the three main parties. Ms Rantzen lost her deposit. In Luton North Conservative Jeremy Brier, another Jewish candidate, lost to the sitting MP Kelvin Hopkins.

Gillian Merron lost the Lincoln seat she has held since 1997 to the Tories, while Lib Dems Dr Evan Harris and Susan Kramer also lost to Tories - in Ms Kramer's case, to Zac Goldsmith, the 35-year-old millionaire son of the late businessman Sir James Goldsmith. Their departure means Lynne Featherstone and Julian Huppert are now the Lib Dems' sole Jewish MPs.

The Speaker, John Bercow held his seat in Buckingham, beating off a challenge by UKIP's Nigel Farage, who was injured in a plane crash on polling day.

David Winnick, the Labour MP for Walsall North since 1979, won his seat by less than 1,000 votes.

Lichfield Conservative Michael Fabricant, notorious for his flamboyant wig, won the seat with 54 per cent of the vote. Mr Fabricant's majority is now 17,683 - two-and-a-half times his 2005 majority of 7,080. The huge majority has made Lichfield one of the safest Conservative seats in the country.

Brooks Newmark also took more than 50 per cent of the vote for the Conservatives in Braintree, where he has been MP since 2005. He polled 25,901 votes.

Shadow Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills, Jonathan Djanogly, won in his Huntington constituency, despite being rocked during the expenses scandal. He has a majority of 10,819, down nearly 3,000 votes from 2005.

Ruth Smeeth lost in Burton and Uttoxeter after an 8.7 per cent swing to Tory candidate Andrew Griffiths, who won with a 6,304 majority. Ms Smeeth, who works for the Community Security Trust, said she might remain in Burton in anticipation of another possible election.

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