Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick: 'My complete faith in Boris Johnson's commitment to Britain's Jews'

Cabinet minister rejects claims the Tory leader has questions to answer over racism and says he would 'fear' for the future of his Jewish children if Jeremy Corbyn became PM.


LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 05: Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick arrives at 10 Downing Street for a cabinet meeting on November 5, 2019 in London, England. The UK’s main parties are gearing up for a December 12 general election after the motion was carried in a bid to break the current Parliamentary deadlock over Brexit. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)


Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has said he has “complete faith” in Boris Johnson’s commitment to “keep on supporting the Jewish community in this country, championing their cause and fighting antisemitism wherever he sees it.”

Speaking to the JC, the rising star of the Tory Party also said he is “fearful for the futures of my three young Jewish children” if Jeremy Corbyn were to become Prime Minister on December 13.

Rejecting claims that Mr Johnson had serious questions of his own to answer over racist remarks, Mr Jenrick also spoke of his “concern” that Richard Evans, his former history professor at Cambridge, had suggested anti-Jewish racism was what Mr Jenrick called a “secondary order issue” at the forthcoming election.

The 31 year old politician, who is not Jewish but married to  Michal Berkner, an Israeli-born corporate lawyer, was a surprise choice as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government in July. But it is clear that Mr Jenrick has forged a close working relationship with Mr Johnson and provided input on communal issues through his own family life.

“I know Boris Johnson well and I’ve seen throughout my time at his side his support for the Jewish community in this country, his support for Israel and his complete intolerance of antisemitism in all its forms,” he says.

“I have complete faith in him to keep supporting Britain’s Jews.”

But Mr Jenrick, the Tory candidate for Newark, rejects suggestions that his party leader’s record around his use of language and attitude to other minority communities in the UK is far less impressive. “The man I know is someone who is liberal minded and who encourages people of all faiths and ethnicities. As mayor he was elected to run one of the world’s most diverse cities on two occasions.

“You can also see it in the Cabinet he has created - the most diverse cabinet this country has ever had. You see it in the people he has around him as friends and advisers. And you see it in the decisions he takes as Prime Minister “I think it is quite wrong to compare allegations of Islamophobia against the Conservative Party with the institutionalised antisemitism that you see in the Labour Party.”

Mr Jenrick says he believes the Conservative Party must show “zero tolerance to racism and antisemitism and Islamophobia in all its forms” and points to last week’s decision to suspend election candidates in Aberdeen North and Leeds North East for “completely unacceptable statements.”

He adds: “That is the Tory way of dealing with racism, while Labour under Jeremy Corbyn has shown it will tolerate antisemitism.”

The former Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury says he is under no illusion about the impact a Corbyn government would have on his children, who are raised as Jews.

“I do genuinely feel this is a very serious moment for everyone in this country – but particularly for the Jewish community. I feel fearful for my children’s future if Jeremy Corbyn became our Prime Minister. We did not see antisemitism within Labour of the kind we see now under Tony Blair, Gordon Brown or Ed Miliband. The problem has reared its head under Jeremy Corbyn. The climate he has tolerated has given it a prominence in national life way beyond anything we have experienced in our lifetimes. This has been a huge regret to me as a father of three young children.”

Mr Jenrick suggests that developments during the current election campaign have given him reason to be even more concerned about some of the voices offering support to Labour.

“To give you an example, Richard Evans, the history professor who taught me at Cambridge, who I admired at university - to see him tweet that antisemitism is a cancer in the Labour Party but that to him it was a secondary order issue that wouldn’t determine how he would vote makes me very depressed and concerned for the future of the country.

“This is someone who is a Third Reich specialist who was one of the expert witnesses in the Irving trial. Yet despite all his knowledge about the rise of antisemitism in the 1930s he ultimately concluded it wouldn’t stop him voting for the Labour Party. “ In contrast, Mr Jenrick says that after Mr Johnson appointed him as Communities Secretary he was told by Mr Johnson to “do everything I could do to support the community.”

From continuing to fund the Community Security Trust to supporting Jewish places of worship and schools, he says the Tory leader was also “adamant that the Holocaust Memorial must go ahead”.

He says it was “the right decision” last month to place the application for the Memorial and Learning Centre under the control of ministers in his department. “This is a decision of national and international importance,” he added.

Mr Jenrick reveals that he spoke to Mr Johnson about his “personal experience” of attempting to go shopping with his children in central London during the annual Al Quds Day march. “He shared my revulsion that Hezbollah flags and antisemitic chants were being shouted on the streets of London. His instruction to me as Communities Secretary was to take whatever steps were needed to ensure the Jewish community is respected and protected. You can see that reflected in the decisions taken in the first few months of his premiership and in the Tory manifesto.”

Mr Jenrick is also keen to outline how policy on housing could improve situations such as that found in north London – where an exclusive road such as The Bishops Avenue is known best today for the number of empty exclusive properties owned by foreign investors.

“We will be introducing a stamp duty surcharge for non-resident investors in British property,” he says.

“That will mean international investors who want to purchase property but not live in them will have to pay 3 per cent more on the purchase price. This money will go towards our efforts to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping. It’s a measure already seen in other internationally attractive places like Singapore and indeed in Israel. This is the right thing to do.”

He also outlines moves to tackle issues around multiple occupied rental homes, while also promising to recognise the need to protect the rights of those who rent their homes.

As for the impact of the current election campaign on his own home life? “I have very tolerant family,” he says. “This is the first election that two of my daughters are actually old enough to be useful!  They are out delivering leaflets attempting to win over people to vote for me.





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