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Chancellor: Brexit means Conservatives are behind in London

Barnet, home to about one-fifth of the UK Jewish population, is predicted to vote Labour in May council elections

    Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pictured earlier this month (Photo: PA Images)
    Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pictured earlier this month (Photo: PA Images)

    Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, has admitted that Brexit is the reason the Conservative Party looks set to lose a number of London councils, including Barnet, home to the UK’s biggest Jewish community.

    On a visit to the Pentland Brand HQ in Finchley, north-west London, he added that voters who backed Remain “are not yet at a point where people can fully give us the credit for having navigated this perilous path and achieved a pragmatic Brexit”.

    All but five London boroughs - Bexley, Sutton, Havering, Hillingdon and Barking and Dagenham – voted to stay in the European Union in 2016.

    Projections by the Conservative pollster Lord Hayward indicate that the Tories will lose about 100 council seats across London in the May 3 elections.

    Barnet, home to 54,000 Jews, or about one-fifth of the country’s Jewish population, is predicted to fall under the sole control of Labour control for the first time. Apart from an eight-year coalition between the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats, Barnet has been run by the Conservatives since its creation in 1965.

    Mr Hammond told the JC: "I hope that in a few months’ time, by the time of the election, people will be looking at Brexit and thinking that we managed this very difficult challenge, we’ve got a good, sensible solution that binds the country back together."

    Mike Freer, the Conservative MP for Finchley and Golders Green, added that some Jewish Barnet residents will vote for his party because of an objection to Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party.

    Last week 2,000 demonstrators gathered in Parliament Square to protest against Mr Corbyn’s record on antisemitism.

    Writing for the Huff Post yesterday, Barry Rawlings, the leader of Barnet’s Labour group, said that Mr Corbyn’s “blind spot” on antisemitism risks losing “crucial Jewish support” in the borough.

    Mr Freer said: “On the whole there is a feeling locally that they don’t want to validate Corbyn. There are some perfectly good Labour candidates. But they don’t want to validate Corbyn’s stance and they want to send a message.”

    Mr Hammond contended that antisemitism in the Labour Party stemmed from the “slippery slope” of legitimate criticism of the Israeli government.

    He said: "My personal perception of this is that this is rooted in the politics of the pro-Palestinian movement. And somehow this has morphed into an antisemitism. A lot of it starts with the long history of left-wing support for the Palestinian movement.

    "Now there are plenty of people who will be supporters of the Palestinian movement who are not tainted with antisemitism, and I wouldn’t want to suggest that there’s an automatic link.

    "But I suspect that’s the slippery slope from which some of it has started. People haven’t been able to distinguish challenges to the government of Israel and some of the things it does - which is perfectly legitimate politics - and antisemitism. You cannot allow it to become antisemitism."

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