Is Ivan Lewis the man to unite Manchester?

Ivan Lewis is on a mission. The veteran Jewish MP is fighting to be Labour's candidate in next year's Manchester mayoral election.


Ivan Lewis is on a mission. The veteran Jewish MP is fighting to be Labour's candidate in next year's Manchester mayoral election.

He has a mountain to climb - his rivals for the nomination are Tony Lloyd, who is currently interim mayor, and Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham.

But Mr Lewis told the JC this week that he is confident.

The former chief executive of The Fed, Manchester's Jewish social welfare charity, said: "Unlike some politicians, I wasn't a special advisor fast-tracked into a safe seat and then into a big ministerial job.

"I started off in my local community. I set up a charity supporting people with learning disabilities and mental health problems at the age of 19. And I served for eight years in local government."

He believes an elected mayor could benefit not only the city as a whole but its Jews as well.

"Look at the history of Greater Manchester - the contribution of the Jewish community in culture, commerce, politics, is extraordinary, and I think it's incredibly important that that is celebrated and sustained.

"Today the contribution of the Jewish community to the wider community in Manchester is very substantial indeed.

"The community's welfare and education infrastructure is something that the community can be incredibly proud of - and that could be used to support other minority communities in developing their capacity as well."

Mr Lewis, Bury South MP since 1997, was sacked from Jeremy Corbyn's first shadow cabinet last September and he is now a leading critic of Mr Corbyn.

On the Jewish community's reaction to Labour's antisemitism crisis, Mr Lewis has a blunt response.

"There's no point in pretending the community isn't extremely anxious and worried," he says.

But he stresses that Manchester's Jews are determined to stick with the party. "We've just seen the formation of the Jewish Labour Movement in Manchester. We had an inaugural meeting recently and the room was packed.

"I'm going nowhere - it's as much my party as it is anybody else's."

Mr Lewis firmly believes that Labour values and the values of the Jewish community are aligned.

"The Jewish community has always believed in social justice and fairness and looking after those in our community who are the most vulnerable - and that education should support every single young person to fulfil their potential," he says.

"Individuals should be encouraged and supported to be successful and aspirational but part of that is that when you are successful you have a responsibility to put something back into your community. Those values are the Labour Party at its best."

In one key area where the Jewish community and Labour appear to be at odds - Israel - Mr Lewis, a former Middle East Minister, has a plan.

He is working to establish a Labour group which will work "to bring together those who are very strongly pro-Palestinian and those who are very strongly pro-Israel, to start having a conversation and a dialogue. We don't want that dispute adding to community tension or playing out on the streets." The anti-Israel protests outside the Kedem store in the city centre have been a flashpoint in the past two years.

If Mr Lewis clinches the Labour nomination and goes on to be mayor, voters in his constituency would face another vote.

He would resign from his Parliamentary seat and trigger a by-election within six months of the mayoral election next May. Mr Lewis said he would initially do both jobs in order to use his positions "to access ministers and civil servants" and to "get a fair deal for Greater Manchester".

● Former shadow minister Luciana Berger is bidding to be Labour's candidate for the election to be Mayor of Liverpool in May 2017.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive