Labour’s candidate for Finchley and Golders Green has said that voters should support him in the knowledge that Jeremy Corbyn will not become prime minister.
Jeremy Newmark attacked Mr Corbyn's attitude during last summer's EU referendum and claimed his leader did not understand antisemitism - but said voters should back him in a purely local campaign.
Lord Sacks’s former spokesman faces an uphill battle in the suburban north London constituency where Mike Freer, the Conservative candidate, is defending a majority of 5,662.
This challenge is even greater because of Mr Corbyn’s unpopularity within sections of the Jewish community for what some feel was a sluggish response to charges of antisemitism among some of his party’s left-wing activists. A total of 21.1 per cent of the population in Finchley and Golders Green is Jewish.
Asked whether he wanted Mr Corbyn to be prime minister, Mr Newmark replied in an email to The Jewish Chronicle and The Times that this should not be a factor. “People must make up their own minds on whether or not this is the kind of election in which we will see a change in Prime Minister and factor that into their voting intention,” he said.
The chairman of the Jewish Labour movement added that he was a candidate “standing for local people on issues of local concern” and Labour’s values “reflect my own values”.
Mr Newmark has placed his pro-EU credentials at the centre of his campaign, describing himself as a “moderate pro-European candidate”, a message likely to resonate in the borough of Barnet where 62 per cent of the population voted to Remain.
He has pledged to call for a confirmatory referendum once the terms of Britain’s exit are confirmed and, if Theresa May refuses to grant one, to organise a “constituency-wide” poll in Finchley and Golders Green. He has attacked Mr Freer, who campaigned to remain in the EU and then “flip-flopped within a week of the result” to go along with Brexit.
However, in his email, he also attacked Mr Corbyn’s role in the referendum, claiming the Labour leader was ambiguous in his support for the Remain campaign. “As somebody who had a role coordinating the Remain campaign in a constituency in the East of England I was deeply frustrated by the weak and lacklustre performance of Labour’s own leadership during this period,” he said.
Mr Newmark also repeated previous criticisms of Mr Corbyn over his attitude towards left-wing antisemitism, saying that he did not believe he properly understood the problem. “I have regularly challenged the Leader face to face and he has heard my view directly that he has failed to demonstrate sufficient understanding of the nature of modern antisemitism and that rhetoric of zero tolerance needs to match with action.”
Labour consistently trail the Conservatives in national opinion polls, with four last weekend putting Mrs May’s party in the high 40s, with Labour hovering around the 30 per cent mark, the Lib Dems between eight and 10 per cent, and UKIP in mid-single figures, just ahead of the Greens. In Finchley and Golders Green, Jonathan Davies is standing for the Lib Dems, Adele Ward represents the Greens, and UKIP has yet to announce a candidate.