Tory leadership frontrunners have strong links to Israel and Jews

Outgoing security minister Tom Tugendhat and former immigration minister Robert Jenrick lead the pack


The huge Conservative losses in the general election leave two likely frontrunners with strong Jewish connections in the coming contest for the party leadership – outgoing security minister Tom Tugendhat and former immigration minister Robert Jenrick.

Tugendhat, whose paternal grandfather was a Jewish émigré from Vienna who later converted to Catholicism, was a staunch ally of Israel and an enemy of the jihadist regime in Iran throughout his time in office.

In an article published in 2020, Tugendhat – whose name in German means “has virtue” – wrote of his abhorrence of antisemitism and his visit to Yad Vashem, stating that his “connection to a history of European Jewish culture makes me so conscious of the words that normalise hatred and try to turn me into an outsider in my own home”.

While he had no Jewish upbringing, he commented that the same was true of Jews murdered in the Holocaust: “Many of those victims never thought of themselves as Jews either but their murderers felt otherwise”.

First elected for the Tonbridge constituency in 2015, Tugendhat, 51, a former journalist and reservist army officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, has retained it with a majority over Labour of more than 10,000.

Although he is seen as belonging to the liberal, one-nation wing of the Tory Party, he has taken a harder line on foreign policy. As the then-chair of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, he electrified Parliament with a speech condemning the “betrayal” of Afghanistan when Western coalition forces withdrew in 2021, leaving the country to the tender mercies of the Taliban.

More recently while in office, Tugendhat has made no secret of his belief that Britain should have proscribed Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organisation – a move blocked by the Foreign Office during the last government.

Former solicitor Jenrick, 42, beat widespread expectations he would lose his seat in Newark, scoring a majority of 3,572 over Labour. A prominent figure in Conservative Friends of Israel, he is married to Michal Berkner, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, and the couple have brought up their three children as Jews.

In 2020, he made a speech saying Britain should build a new embassy on a plot of land it owns in Jerusalem and close the existing embassy in Tel Aviv, a call condemned by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which claimed this would be illegal.

Having served as a minister in the Treasury, housing and health departments, Jenrick was appointed as the Home Office immigration minister after Rishi Sunak became prime minister in October 2022. However, just 14 months later he resigned, claiming that Sunak’s Bill to deport illegal migrants to Rwanda “does not go far enough” and would fail to stop the wave of small boats carrying them across the Channel from France.

Sources on the right wing of the Tory Party say his survival as an MP makes it likely he will become their standard bearer in the expected contest for the leadership of the Opposition following Sunak’s inevitable resignation, although he may face stiff opposition from former business secretary Kemi Badenoch and former home secretary Suella Braverman, who were also re-elected.

Braverman – whose husband is Jewish, and who famously described the anti-Israel protests that have roiled British cities since the October 7 terrorist massacre as “hate marches” – and Badenoch, who did her utmost to forge closer trade links with Israel, are also staunch and dependable allies of the Jewish state and Britain’s Jewish community. The JC understands that Braverman has faced death threats because of her support for Israel’s right to self-defence since the October massacre.

However, senior figures on the right of the party say  Braverman has been too strident in her criticisms of the outgoing government since Sunak sacked her in November, while others have voiced unease at Badenoch’s fierce criticisms of Reform UK leader Nigel Farage. 

Another widely-tipped potential candidate, the centrist former Commons leader Penny Mordaunt, lost her Portsmouth seat.

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