New Labour MP Catherine West seeks strong ties with Jewish community

'I found all Jewish homes had a strong sense of justice and what is right'


New Labour MP Catherine West has prioritised maintaining strong relations with the Jewish community in her north London constituency but warned that she would have backed the Palestinian independence had she been in the Commons.

Mrs West won Hornsey and Wood Green from the Liberal Democrats, beating the Jewish sitting MP, Lynne Featherstone, by a majority of just over 11,000 votes.

The constituency has the 15th highest proportion of Jews among the electorate, at 3.4 per cent.

Reflecting on her victory, Mrs West said she wanted to continue the hard work Ms Featherstone has put in to strengthen ties with the Jewish community.

The 48-year-old, former Islington councillor, said: “Relations with other faith groups in our constituency are very strong, I’m committed to staying involved in that and encouraging it more.”

She added that a major concern among Jewish voters she had met during the campaign was human rights.

The government has delayed plans to repeal the Human Rights Act amid opposition from senior Tories. The Queen’s Speech did not include full legislation to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights in this session of Parliament.

“I visited many Jewish homes on my campaign trail and they all spoke to me a lot about human rights issues,” Mrs West said.

“I found all Jewish homes had a strong sense of justice and what is right, so we are keeping a close eye on what happens with the Human Rights act.”

Mrs West who grew up in Sydney, Australia, said it was important that she was honest with Jewish constituents about her views on the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

She said: “I told everyone on the doorstep and in the hustings held in the shul, that had I been a MP at the time, I would have voted for Palestinian state recognition.

“While the Jewish people I spoke to wouldn’t have done it themselves, they understood why I would have.

“I see it from human rights point of view and for a two-state solution to work we need to accept Palestine as a state as well. But I also understand the security concerns that Israel has.”

She said upon becoming MP she has had invitations from both Labour Friends of Israel and Labour Friends of Palestine to join the groups, but was undecided about joining either.

Mrs West, who visited Israel in 1987 said: “I loved it when I went, and I had always wanted to go. It was an amazing place the weather was great and Jerusalem is exactly how people describe it, so rich in culture and diversity.

“It feels similar to Sydney in that the literature, arts, science and technology that has come from there, is fantastic.”

She said: “Hopefully though interfaith work in our community we can promote that positive side. It is something we don’t hear enough about.”

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