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Jeremy Newmark: A man of power and ambition

Simon Rocker profiles the man at the centre of the JLC audit controversy

    Jeremy Newmark with a group of supporters outside the Finchley and Golders Green Constituency Labour Party HQ
    Jeremy Newmark with a group of supporters outside the Finchley and Golders Green Constituency Labour Party HQ (Jeremy Newmark/Twitter)

    When the JC published its “Power 100” in 2007, its roll of the most influential communal figures, Jeremy Newmark was ranked 56. The chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, who aged 34 was one of the youngest on the list, was recognised as a “master practitioner of behind-the-scenes diplomacy”.

    The following year he had climbed to 44th and would have almost certainly risen higher when the JC next repeated the exercise in 2014, had he not resigned his position a year earlier, ostensibly on the grounds of ill health.

    During his tenure as the JLC’s first full-time chief executive, it had expanded its influence across the community, increasing its spending from £191,646 in 2007 to £2,782,220 by the end of 2013.

    The political instincts of the former Carmel College boy, who spent a gap year in a Jerusalem yeshivah, were apparent from his days at City University. Political and anti-racism officer of the Union of Jewish Students in 1992, National Union of Students’ executive member in 1993 and NUS London sabbatical officer in 1994, he was back at UJS in 1995 as campaigns organiser.

    Few of his contemporaries gained such an inside track on communal affairs. After 18 months working at the Board of Deputies, he spent five years as head of the communications team at the office of Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, trying to keep the Chief out of trouble within the community and to raise his profile nationally.

    In 2004 he became head of the Antisemitism Co-ordinating Unit, a communal quango set up to liaise between the various defence organisations including the Gerald Ronson-chaired Community Security Trust. In 2006 and still in his early 30s, he was propelled into the professional leadership of the JLC.

    Under his tutelage, the organisation’s membership and ambitions grew, as did tensions with the Board. The JLC became active in anti-boycott campaigning, education and leadership training among other things and was commonly seen to be running rings around the Board in political representation. The JLC’s chief executive seemed a ubiquitous presence on the communal stage and never short of a quote.

    By 2011, one co-founder of the JLC, Lord Levy, complained it had grabbed too much power. But however much deputies at the Board might gnash their teeth, the rise of the JLC — and of its chief executive — seemed unstoppable.

    The announcement in October 2013 that Mr Newmark was stepping down came as a surprise but the reason seemed plausible, his fluctuating weight over the years hinting at an underlying medical condition.

    The JLC’s statement revealed he had been diagnosed with diabetes and related complications. JLC chairman Mick Davis explained that Mr Newmark was “not in a position to work at the pace he has been doing over the past few years.”

    Out of the limelight for a couple of years, he returned to communal office early in 2016 as chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement during a time of crisis for relations between the Jewish community and Labour under new leader Jeremy Corbyn. Some communal leaders quietly supported JLM’s role as a voice within the party lobbying against antisemitism and for fair-minded treatment of Israel.

    But Mr Newmark’s decision to stand as a candidate in last year’s general election, albeit unsuccessfully, caught communal leaders off guard.

    How this week’s revelations affect his public standing remains to be seen. It is entirely possible that had Labour been led by someone other than Mr Corbyn, Golders Green would have gone Labour’s way last summer and Mr Newmark would be Jeremy Newmark MP.

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