Sunday, 2 May 2010

British candidates court U.K. "Chosen" ahead of election

The three candidates were sitting up on the stage last Wednesday night: One wearing a skullcap (though he is not Jewish), the second waxing poetic about his trip to Israel, and the third furious about anti-Semitism in Europe and twice mentioning his personal role in getting Holocaust Remembrance Day put on the national calendar.

The venue: The Hendon United Synagogue - one of dozens of synagogues in the borough of Barnet, home to Britain's largest Jewish community.

According to the last census, done in 2001, no more than 0.5 percent of the general population call themselves Jews. But they are considered a strong voting bloc because they are mainly clustered in a few constituencies around London and Manchester.

According to the 2001 census, a full 17.6 percent of the Jewish UK population, or 46,686 Jews, live in Barnet.

Hendon, one of the three constituencies that make up Barnet, is considered an important marginal seat in the coming elections - held by Labour but coveted by the Tories.

"Do you support the terrorist organization Hamas?" an elderly gentleman asks, getting the debate going. The candidates practically fall over each other in their rush to answer in the negative.

"Look at what they have done to their own people!" begins Matthew Offord, the Tory contender. "Despicable," charges Matthew Harris, of the Liberal Democrats. "I am in despair what I see what they are doing in Gaza," pipes in Andrew Dismore, the current Hendon MP, a Labour man who has represented this constituency since 1997.

The questions come fast an furious: What about funding for Jewish schools? How do the candidates feel about the eruv (wire demarcation for Orthodox Jews to carry objects on Shabbat) in Hendon? What do they think about the university movements to boycott Israel? Universal jurisdiction?

They seem generally uninterested matters of community hospitals, transport or the like. Its all Israel and Jews, all the time. And the candidates have no choice but to oblige. More?

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