I know about hate - my sister was a victim


There are very few Church of England ministers with closer links to the Jewish community than Daniel Critchlow.

Brought up at the heart of the Prestwich community, the Conservative candidate's parents were leading figures in Manchester's Jewish education establishments.

Reverend Critchlow's father was deputy head teacher at the Orthodox Manchester Mesivta school, and his mother taught at the city's King David High School.

"They were quite different schools and it gave me a good understanding of the whole Jewish community," Rev Critchlow explained. "I consider the community as a fundamental part of my upbringing."

The 27-year-old, who is attempting to unseat Labour MP Ivan Lewis, is a longstanding supporter of Conservative Friends of Israel and Christians United for Israel. He said Tory support for Israel, and government action to counter antisemitism, would stand in his favour on polling day.

She came back with blood pouring down her face. They were pelted with stones

"David Cameron and the party have really taken the lead where other parties have maybe been slack in recognising the problem of antisemitism, and also anti-Zionist rhetoric which sometimes leads to antisemitism," Rev Critchlow explained.

"I'm proud of our party's support for Israel and for the Jewish community in general. When I listen to Ed Miliband and David Cameron, I know who I trust."

An unlikely incident nearly 20 years ago, in which Rev Critchlow's younger sister was the victim of an antisemitic attack close to the family home in Prestwich, left him in no doubt about the community's security concerns.

"She came back with blood pouring down her face," he recalled. "They had been for a walk and someone had asked if they were Jewish. The friends said they were, and my sister said she was too, out of loyalty. They were pelted with stones.

"I am aware these things happened and still do. Everyone has the right to freedom and security. One of the reasons I'm a Conservative is because the party is the standard bearer of security. Look at Theresa May's comments after Paris; she talked about upping security around Jewish institutions and that's happened."

With concern about anti-Israel feeling at peak levels in the city, Rev Critchlow intends to highlight to the constituency's 7,500 Jewish voters what he described as key differences between the Tory and Labour approaches.

Labour leader Ed Miliband's comments during the Gaza conflict last summer, and his attempted whipping of MPs to support a Commons motion on the recognition of a Palestinian state, have damaged the party's relationship with Israel-supporters, Rev Critchlow said.

The fallout, he believes, leaves Mr Lewis "in a very difficult place. My question for him is if Ed Miliband was prime minister and intended to turn unilateral recognition for a Palestinian state into government policy then what would Ivan do?

"He would not be in a position where he could fob off the issue. Support of Israel and its defence and security is more important than career advancement for me. I want to see Ivan Lewis nail his colours to the mast and say 'sorry, I'm not prepared to support a leader who wants this and I will stand down as a result'. When your career is on the line will you still support Israel?"

In February last year Rev Critchlow was pushed into third place by Ukip in a by-election in south Manchester's Labour-held Wythenshawe and Sale East constituency.

Bury South is not a priority target for the Conservatives. Overturning Mr Lewis's 3,292 majority would represent a considerable upset.

The campaign is expected to be close and Rev Critchlow has already held events at Whitefield Hebrew Congregation and alongside grassroots campaign group North-West Friends of Israel.

He said: "It's a really important seat. The country has a clear choice between Ed Miliband and David Cameron. Bury South plays a crucial part. This is the kind of place that needs to come into play for us to have a strong majority. Ivan should be worried."

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