I’m a Zionist and ready to face the mob, says Tories’ Finchley and Golders Green candidate

Alex Deane says his main goal is to ensure Jews can feel safe in central London


On the stump (from left): Suella Braverman, Dov Forman and Alex Deane

Eats hummus in public. Tick. Drops by at Carmelli’s. Tick. Joins clown at Purim party. Tick.

There are signs that Alex Deane, the new Tory candidate for Finchley and Golder’s Green, has grasped the basics of political campaigning in the UK’s most Jewish constituency. But can he get under voters’ skins?

Speaking to the JC about his meeting with Jewish ambulance service Hatzola, he said: “I was really proud to meet them because they’re doing something. They don’t just have a whine about the state of the world, they put on a jacket, volunteer and do their best to help.”

Which, as anyone who has met Hatzola volunteers will know, sums things up nicely. Arguably, it also sums up Deane, a public affairs consultant and fan of “tax-cutting, small state, free market” and Margaret Thatcher.

In his first sit-down interview since being selected to run on the Tory ticket to replace the widely admired Mike Freer – who announced his decision to step down after 14 years as an MP in the wake of threats and an arson attack –Deane, 44, spoke candidly about rising antisemitism across the UK, being a Zionist, the role of faith schools and his former boss, David Cameron.

Deane, a trained barrister who for six months in 2005 served as Lord Cameron’s chief of staff when the now-foreign secretary was shadow education secretary, believes the UK’s backing of an immediate ceasefire in Gaza at the United Nations Security Council this week was “wrong”.

Addressing the foreign secretary’s approach to Israel’s actions in Gaza, Deane said: “It is unfair to ask Israel to fight with one hand tied behind its back. Hamas has said they want to repeat the atrocities of October 7, so when you impose a ceasefire on our ally, Israel, all you are doing is giving Hamas a chance to regroup, rearm, resupply and attack again. For me, the precursor to any ceasefire is the return of all hostages.”

He added: “Israel is fighting a proscribed terrorist organisation. Israel’s fight is our fight. We should help them end that conflict by eradicating Hamas and until that’s done in the Gaza Strip, we should be backing Israel. We certainly shouldn’t be threatening our allies.”

In the UK, Deane wants to see the Metropolitan Police doing more to control the hatred on display at the anti-Israel marches across central London: “In my view, the Metropolitan Police are not doing enough,” he said. “The protesters have made their point. The streets are communal assets and they should not be taken over so you can’t drive an ambulance through them, or you can’t walk down [them] because you are Jewish.”

Deane’s “biggest concern” if elected, will be his constituents and “whether they feel safe going into central London” at the weekend.

For him, the best chance to secure positive UK-Israel relations will be under a Tory government.

“Israel has a better chance of getting a fair shake out of the Conservative Party than it does Labour,” he said.

“Sir Keir Starmer has moved the party; Jeremy Corbyn is gone, but Corbynites and Corbynism have not.”

Regarding his opponent, Labour candidate Sarah Sackman – who, unlike Deane, is Jewish – he said: “Sarah seems pleasant and like she is going into public life for the right reasons. I have every confidence that we will have a great contest. But if you look behind Sarah at what’s in the Labour Party, you will find that the people who joined under Corbyn have not left. I find that really worrying.”

Deane, who canvassed in Golders Green alongside former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, has long felt a connection to Israel and the Jewish community.

As a student at the University of Cambridge, he met Jewish barrister Jeremy Brier KC, who went on to be the best man at his wedding. They were debating partners and together won the World Universities Debating Championship in 2004.

Deane also spent time teaching debating in countries including Israel with the charity the English-Speaking Union: “There I was in a liberal democracy that basically felt like home,” he recalled of his experience there. “Men and women enjoyed equality. I could walk down the streets, and if you happen to be gay, so what, right? It was the only place in the Middle East in which all those things were true.”

On his return to the UK, he was disturbed by the backlash against British Jews after the Second Intifada. “Not all Jews are Zionists, and not all Zionists are Jews,” he said. “I’m a Zionist and I’m not Jewish. I want to say to [anti-Israel protesters] that you are better off having a go at me, because at least you know I am a Zionist. When they go for a Jew, they are just demonstrating their racism and antisemitism.”

A Christian who was married in London’s St Bartholomew the Great – a church that featured in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral – Deane feels faith has an important role to play in society and is a supporter of faith schools. On Labour’s proposed introduction of 20 per cent VAT on private school fees if it comes into government, Deane said: “My position is the reverse; I would give people a tax rebate for contributing to schooling.”

While this is the first time Deane has run for office, he has long been involved in politics, having previously campaigned for civil liberties as a director of Big Brother Watch and for Brexit as the executive director of the Grassroots Out movement.

Summing himself up, he said: “I am a tax-cutting, small-state, free-market Conservative. I am a Thatcherite; people either like me or they don’t. It is good to be direct about who you are.”

He added: “It is a mistake to think the government should do everything for us, the voluntary sector is part of living in society to think about your neighbours.

“The Jewish community happens to be better at doing that. I think that through thick and thin, adherents of Judaism have known the importance of their community and supporting one another.”

Despite the polls projecting a Labour win, Deane thinks he could claim the seat. Sitting in the Tory constituency office – which is still undergoing renovations after being set on fire on Christmas Eve – he said: “Mike [Freer] received multiple death threats. It is terrible that happened in British society and that is one of the motivating reasons for me standing in this seat.

"I still have faith in British society. I think I would be a good MP, but I know that there were people who were put off applying because of the [security] situation.”

Describing a vote for the Eurosceptic Reform Party as a vote for Sir Keir, he said: “Our chances here are good because I think people recognise that Mike has been a really good MP. The manner of his going is disgraceful and unforgivable.

“I am not blind to the polls, but I think we have a strong fighting chance. Good campaigns and good candidates can always turn things around on a local level.”​

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