Nigel Farage has predicted that Ukip will cause a “political earthquake” when voters go to the polls later this month. Arguably, shock waves are already being felt as support for the party grows within the Jewish community.
Ukip boasts the only British Lubavitch candidate in the European elections, but how does Anglo-Jewry’s immigrant history square with the party’s agenda?
For Lloyd Levy, there is particular relevance for Jews in the party’s anti-European stance.
Mr Levy, a London-based Ukip patron — a position granted to donors giving the party more than £1,000 a year — said: “I want Britain out of the EU in order to protect shechita and brit milah.
“The Germans have taken over the EU without a shot being fired. We fought two world wars to stop that happening. We are now effectively answering to the Germans. Jews should not agree with that.
I want Britain out of the EU to protect shechita
“Jews will suffer if immigration continues at this rate. We will get it in the neck the longer it goes on. People say Jews benefited from immigration but, at the maximum, there were only ever 400,000 Jews here. Now we’re talking about millions of people coming. The Jews did not alter the make-up of the whole country.
“There are a lot of Jews in the provinces who have a different world-view to people in London. I was born in Hull and I think Ukip is a demonstration against the metropolitan elite and the Westminster village. I feel disenfranchised.”
For Ukip’s Harrow branch chairman Jeremy Zeid, there is no conflict of interest in being both Jewish and a “Ukip-per”. But there is also no definitive Jewish reason for backing Mr Farage (pictured, right) and his colleagues.
Mr Zeid explained: “What can Ukip offer Jewish supporters? I can’t really say. It was just a gut feeling that I was in the right place.
“What attracts people to Ukip is that we make no overtures to any one particular group. We are for everyone and we want to fix things. It’s the down-to-earth stuff that attracts. We are used to being the underdog and Jewish voters can identify with that.”
He is standing to be a councillor and said accusations that the party harbours racist elements were “a load of cobblers”.
Jewish Ukip supporters tend to fit the same demographic as non-Jewish backers — more men than women and mainly older voters. There are examples of Jewish support for the party both big and small. Solicitor and racehorse trainer Andrew Reid provides office space in Mayfair; Ukip Friends of Israel ran a fringe stall at the party’s annual conference; and hundreds of JC readers attended a special event with Mr Farage last July.
But polling conducted by the JC a year ago showed 71 per cent of people who said they would vote for Ukip also favoured a ban on shechita. Ukip voters are also more strongly in favour of banning male circumcision than supporters of any other political party.
Mr Farage’s apparent loose grip on matters of Jewish concern (at the JC session he gave only brief answers to questions relating to Israel, Jerusalem and Iran’s nuclear ambitions) is not an obstacle.
“Those issues are not on Nigel’s horizon. He concentrates on the EU. You cannot expect him to concentrate on obscure Jewish matters” said Mr Levy.
North West London-based businessman, Dr John Rose, also argued that Jewish supporters’ backing for Ukip was largely based on patriotism rather than religious feeling.
“I feel the country is going downhill and nothing is being done about it,” he said. “I’m a keen Jew and very pro-Israel, but also an English patriot.
“There are two sorts of immigrants — desirable and undesirable. Some are marvellous but some are criminals and terrorists. There’s no control of it at the moment. We want to be able to choose the right people to come in.”
Dr Rose said parallels should not be drawn between Jewish immigration to Britain in the early 20th century and migrants arriving today: “In Hendon, there are loads of women dressed in burkas. You feel like a foreigner in your own country, it’s very uncomfortable.
“People might say the same about Jewish men with black hats and beards, but they don’t go round blowing up British soldiers.
“I’ve tried to convince Jewish people to support Ukip. They suspect the party may be racist. But if you love your country I don’t see what other choice there is. David Cameron’s a nice bloke but he won’t do anything.”
Anti-fascist group Hope Not Hate is working to combat Ukip in this month’s local and European polls.
Hope Not Hate said party officials had voiced support for far-right groups such as the English Defence League. The party was guilty of “an abject failure to deal with a long list of racists within its ranks” and Mr Farage had “ripped off the BNP’s old ‘Love Britain, Vote BNP’ slogan with the line ‘Love Britain, Vote Ukip’”.