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  1. Politics
9 April 2015

Ask the Jewish community how they’re voting, yes. But ask about more than Israel and security

A new poll finds that British Jews prefer the Conservatives to Labour; but a discussion of the community's needs deserves a broader palette than just the Middle East.

By jay Stoll

This week’s Jewish Chronicle/Survation poll confirmed what many analysts of contemporary Jewish political sentiment have been suggesting for a while: the Community will choose Conservative over Labour in May. They will do so because of the respective parties’ responses to Operation Protective Edge, but also because of how they relate to the two party leaders.

Seen solely through the lens of the latter, this is not at all shocking. As the Chronicle wrote in their own analysis of the latest survey, “Downing Street has been given a more or less free hand to make the running” with the community, with the Prime Minister and his associates in the Cabinet attending more major Jewish functions than your local Rabbi. It would be disingenuous, even for the most ardent critic of this Prime Minister, to say he fell short in delivering for the community on Holocaust Commemoration, or in his response to rising antisemitism across Europe. His government have provided the funds to match his rhetoric and should be commended in equal measure.

Yet the results of this poll reflect as much upon these gestures as they do on the limited parameters set by its own questions. Whilst one cannot object to Jews being polled on Israel, or on how secure we feel in the UK, one should object to the absence of questions that would magnify the political diversity of our community. That is not to say we are a homogenous mass on matters concerning Israel, far from it, but asking Jews the ‘importance of [party] attitude towards Israel’ is tantamount to asking a bear about the importance of maintaining local woodland.

So, here is a plea for the next round of surveys of “The Jewish Vote” imparted by the esteemed wonks at Survation. Ask us about the NHS. Ask us about our inability to secure an appointment with a GP in under 48 hours. Ask us about house prices in London and specifically ask young Jewish professionals whether they think this government have built enough affordable homes. Ask us about this government capping child benefits to three children per household; specifically ask the Haredim of Stoke Newington how that will affect their ability to feed their family. Ask us about arbitrary changes to bus routes and how this will affect the elderly’s ability to visit Jewish cultural sites. Ask us these questions and the blue mist that seems to have engulfed the community may just lift.

There is also much to be said for the general chatter following these surveys. Party loyalists immediately ponder over the consequences for electoral battlegrounds of Hendon and Golders Green. To them, spinning the polls positively is akin to a mitzvah (good deed), especially on big-ticket issues such as foreign policy. Yet, before casting their vote, many would prefer to hear about the local efforts of candidates beyond the confines of the Israel debate.

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Let’s instead talk about the local impact that those seeking our vote have had. Let’s talk about Tulip Siddiq, who has knitted together the multicultural haven of Hampstead and Kilburn through her work in the Camden Faiths Forum. Let’s talk about Wes Streeting, outspoken in his support for Jewish Schools in Ilford North and for Jewish students back when he was the President of NUS. Let’s talk about Sarah Sackman, who has rallied against recent TFL changes to bus routes. Let’s talk about these people because their relationship with our community in the UK should transcend the age-old Middle East debate. Let us talk about these candidates, and our views of the two main parties may become more nuanced than a collective distaste for one man’s poorly devoured bacon sandwich.
Our community deserves a more considered approach when being surveyed on political matters. It is time Jewish diversity within the national conversation was embraced, not shelved for our important but simply inevitable platitudes towards Israel, or maintaining our own security.

Jay Stoll works at the Jewish Leadership Council. He writes in his personal capacity.