UK Jewish community likely to come out in force for May's Conservatives

In light of the recent attacks in Manchester and London, most polling stations had increased security as they opened on Thursday morning.

June 8, 2017 21:37
2 minute read.
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks outside 10 Downing Street after an attack on London Bridge and Borough Market left 7 people dead and dozens injured in London, Britain, June 4, 2017.. (photo credit: REUTERS/KEVIN COOMBS)


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LONDON – Britons voted on Thursday in an election predicted to give Prime Minister Theresa May a larger parliamentary majority, which she hopes will strengthen her hand in looming divorce talks with the European Union.

A final survey backed other opinion polls in the last 24 hours, suggesting that the Conservatives had widened their lead following a tricky campaign in which their support appeared at times to be ebbing away.

The surveys nevertheless projected the election to be far closer than when May announced it on April 18.

As many as one in five voters was still undecided this week after a seven-week campaign overshadowed in the later stages by two Islamist attacks that killed 30 people in Manchester and London in less than two weeks.

Most polling stations had increased security as they opened at 7 a.m., with armed police reinforcing regular officers at some locations.

The campaign started with May’s Conservative Party as much as 21 percentage points ahead of Labour, but by Wednesday polls ranged dramatically, with BMG Research placing the Conservatives 13 points ahead of Labour and Survation pollsters giving the Conservatives a slender lead of just 1 percentage point.

On Thursday, Britons cast their ballots in the third nationwide election in three years. Talking to voters in the north London constituencies of Finchley and Golders Green, and Hendon – the areas with the highest proportion of Jewish voters in the UK, according to a 2015 report by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research – it was clear that for most people who spoke with The Jerusalem Post, the prospect of voting for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party proved unpalatable.

Though both constituencies supported Labour between 1997 and 2010, for many the changes in the party since then have proven too much to handle. For a retired couple voting at Hasmonean Primary School in Hendon who wished to remain anonymous, the sole reason for voting Conservative was “because of Mr. Corbyn.” In previous elections they voted Labour.

Polling by the Jewish Chronicle and Survation released at the end of May revealed that only 13% of British Jews intended to vote for Labour, compared to 77% who said they would vote Conservative.

For Helen Pines Richman, a barrister sporting a bright blue Conservative rosette with painted nails to match, Labour under Corbyn “had not dealt with antisemitic issues properly,” rendering the party objectionable to many in the community. She added that she felt previous Labour leader, Ed Miliband, had done no better and was “very much disliked because his response to Gaza was no good,” a reference to Miliband’s condemnation of many of Israel’s actions during Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

Over in the leafy Hampstead Garden Suburb, a ward in the Finchley and Golders Green constituency, a 21-year-old university student who asked not to be named was unrelenting in his dislike for Corbyn, saying, “As a Jew I don’t comprehend how anyone can vote Labour – if you’re not pro-Israel that’s modern-day antisemitism.” Asked if he had any Jewish friends who were voting Labour, he said he knew one or two, but “couldn’t fathom any Jew voting Labour,” adding that he would “take it as an insult.”

For some in the constituency, however, Labour still had appeal. Elizabeth Backhan, a retired senior citizen, said she voted for the party but asked “not to mention it too loudly.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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