British Jews Unsure about Clegg

Published: April 29th 2010
in News » World

Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg

As Britain’s Prime Minister enters his final term, Jews in Britain are wondering what Liberal Democratic leader Nick Clegg’s potential rise to power means for them.


According to polls, Clegg is apparently in “dead heat” with the incumbent, Gordon Brown of the Labour Party, and David Cameron of the Conservative Party, who does hold a slight edge in the polls.


As no single party is expected to obtain a majority of the British Parliament’s 650 seats when the country votes on May 6th, the office of prime minister may go to whichever party leader is able to lock in a coalition deal, or win the support of another party.


Clegg’s candidacy has drawn comparisons to that of Barack Obama’s, his party’s strength significantly increasing the chances that the Liberal Democrats will be a governing coalition partner.


According to Rosalind Preston, a vice president of the national Jewish umbrella body, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, there are many things up in the air. “But one thing is certain,” she said.  “Whoever is elected will have to deal with some very real and pressing issues, not only on the national and international level, but as they affect British Jews on the home front.”


Also according to Preston, British Jews are concerned with “boycotts of Israeli goods, the spike of anti-Israeli resolutions and speakers on university campuses, and the impact of the economy on the social service sector.”


With the remaining possibility that the Liberal Democratic Party will form a coalition with the ruling government, British Jews cannot help but focus on the party’s take on Israel.


During the 2009 war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, Clegg published an Op-Ed in the Guardian newspaper calling on the Labour government to "condemn unambiguously Israel's tactics" and demanding that Britain and the European Union immediately boycott Israeli arms.


 Last December, Clegg was the main participant in the penning of a letter claiming that Israel had 1.5 million Palestinian prisoners, and he wrote that Israel’s operation in Gaza is a “living nightmare” for Gaza’s residents.


Other questionable behaviour involved Jenny Tonge, a former member of British Parliament who had called for an inquiry last February, regarding outlandish claims of Israeli relief efforts in Haiti were responsible for harvesting the organs of the earthquake victims.


Clegg fired her from her position as the party’s spokesperson after the remarks she had made, though many critics claim the move came too late.


Amidst this year’s exceptionally tight race, candidates appear to be stepping up their focus on Jewish voters. Geoffrey Alderman, a historian of British Jewry, sees this as a positive development.


“Appealing for a Jewish vote," according to Alderman, "is a sign of a vibrant democratic state.”

Related articles: (nick clegg, liberal democrats, British Jews, UK)
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