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Antipathy and fear as Jewish voters head to the polls

The rain clouds, which had been looming ominously overhead, began to drizzle, but the constant stream of voters continued unabated.

    A defaced Labour election poster in Golders Green today (Photo: Daniel Sugarman)
    A defaced Labour election poster in Golders Green today (Photo: Daniel Sugarman)

    Once every few years, Jews go to church.

    Well, not church, precisely, but into the adjacent church hall, which serves multiple purposes. On election day, many of these around the country are transformed into polling stations, where locals go and cast their votes. Finchley and Golders Green is no different.

    The rain clouds, which had been looming ominously overhead, began to drizzle, but the constant stream of voters continued unabated.

    “The turnout has been massive,” said one of the tellers on the door. Tellers are representatives of the political parties, normally marked by a rosette in their party’s colour, who ask for the polling numbers of the people who have come to vote, so they can be crossed off a list.

    “There have been people queueing.”

    The Conservative and Liberal Democrat tellers were in place, blue and yellow – but no Labour teller was present in the hour I was there, with the other two saying that no-one had turned up all morning.

    Perhaps they had an inkling of how a red rosette might be viewed by some of the Jewish people present. Nine out of the 10 Jewish people I spoke to, both strictly Orthodox and non-religious, had voted Conservative – with the tenth declining to tell me who he had voted for, only that it was “not the Conservatives”.

    Many of them seemed surprised when I asked them why they had voted Conservative. More than one of them asked me “isn’t it obvious?”.

    “I voted for the Conservatives because they’re our friends, good for us here and good for us in Israel,” said one woman.

    There were few mentions of specific constituency candidates, with most of the rhetoric focused on just two names – Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn.

    “I think Corbyn would be terrible for the Jewish community,” another voter said.

    “I don’t think Theresa has run a great campaign, but I think the other option is unthinkable.”

    “I voted Conservative,” said another man.

    “Number one, I don’t want the other guy to get in, and number two, I think she [Theresa May] will do a good job.”

    Two others – both of whom had voted Conservative – told me without hesitation that if Labour were to win, they would be leaving the UK.

    “Five Conservative votes in our house,” said one man.

    “In a nutshell, any other decision today, and I’m leaving the country. We already have Swiss passports and we shall be there next week.

    “Corbyn’s preaching to give to the poor, but there’ll be no wealthy people in order to provide jobs for the poor,” the man added, heading towards his luxury Range Rover.

    “You know what, I’m the same,” a woman told me. “My husband and I actually have an exit plan.

    “I don’t have a Swiss passport, but I will try and get out the country any way I can, because I couldn’t afford to stay here.”

    In short, it is probably fair to say that no section of the population views the leader of the Labour Party with as much worry – and antipathy – as the Jewish community.

    One other I talked to told me he had voted Tory. When I asked him why, he took his smartphone out of his pocket and showed me a video – of Jeremy Corbyn talking about his “friends” in “Hamas and Hezbollah”.

    Then he smiled a sad smile and walked away.

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