Former CFI Parliamentary Chairman Rt. Hon. Sir Eric Pickles said this week that while Jewish voters in North West London may have prevented Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn from becoming Prime Minister, Corbyn’s relations with extremist groups “simply didn’t concern voters in a way one would have foreseen”.
In an article for the Jewish News, Sir Eric queried how Corbyn’s links with extremists were overlooked by Labour voters, who voted in large numbers for the party despite its high-profile incidents of antisemitism under Corbyn’s leadership.
Sir Eric emphasised that the results themselves were extraordinary: “Theresa May received more votes than Tony Blair during his 1997 landslide win. Many Conservative candidates lost despite increasing their vote by several thousand”.
He noted that he saw first-hand the “strength of support” and “genuine warmth” for Prime Minister Theresa May and the Conservative Party across South Wales and South England.
The former MP for Brentwood and Ongar praised the Jewish community’s support for the Conservatives in the election: “Were it not for the Jewish community’s strong support for Conservative candidates in north London, then Comrade Corbyn could well be in No.10 right now”.
He added: “Steadfast friends of Israel and the Jewish community – Bob Blackman, Mike Freer, Matthew Offord and Theresa Villiers – held on narrowly thanks to support from Jewish constituents. Sadly, CFI officer David Burrowes lost in Enfield Southgate”.
A Jewish Chronicle poll before the election showed that 77% of British Jews were planning to vote Conservative, with many concerned about Mr Corbyn’s history of anti-Israel activism, and his support for terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah, who he described as his “friends”.
Sir Eric applauded the Jewish community’s involvement in politics, stating that “the UK’s Jewish community has a proud history of engaging in politics and this election offered a timely reminder of the importance of its voice”.
Sir Eric said that Corbyn’s history of supporting extremists “seldom came up on doorsteps”, and that the fact “this would fail to resonate at a time when Britain has suffered from three appalling Islamist terror attacks is acutely concerning”.
The election’s focus on traditional domestic issues, rather than Brexit, allowed the Labour leader to “disingenuously” dismiss links to extremism and deliver a manifesto that was “all manner of incentives and giveaways”.
Sir Eric emphasised that several headlines reached the press during the election showed “undeniable” overtones of antisemitism, including a large pro-Corbyn banner in Bristol that portrayed Theresa May as wearing Star of David earrings.
Speaking of Corbyn’s success in gaining Labour seats during the General Election, Sir Eric suggested that the results indicate that the public “sees nothing wrong” with the Labour leader’s previous links to extremism.
He stated: “If Labour wants to proclaim to be a party ‘for the many’, he can’t continue to whitewash its problem with the Jewish community”.
Sir Eric concluded: “The latest political shock poses many important questions for May and the Conservative Party, but also about views on anti-Semitism in the UK”.
He continued: “In my capacity as the UK’s Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues, I remain resolute in my determination to root out anti-Semitism and feel proud to be in a Party that will stand beside the Jewish community every step of the way”.
Read Sir Eric’s full article here.