Harrow East encompasses Jewish locations such as Stanmore Synagogue and JFS. The constituency has a large Indian and Hindu population but also the fourth highest number of Jewish households in any seats at 4,815.
However, the rise of Hertfordshire and Barnet has seen the overall Jewish population in Harrow fall 16 percent.
Harrow has seen some of the biggest declines, with wards such as Canons, Belmont, and Hatch End seeing a 25, 28 and 29 percent drop in Jewish population respectively. Interviews by Marc Shoffman
Bob Blackman brought the seat back to Tory rule at the previous General Election.
This is a traditionally semi-marginal seat and Blackman only had a majority of just over 3,000 last time round. He has stood up for the community over the past five years, sitting as vice chairman for the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Israel and as secretary of the APPG against anti-Semitism.
He says: “The community here in Harrow needs a representative who will not just make overtures to the Jewish community around election times. I have a very strong track record of support for the nation of Israel, having visited and witnessed the conflict first-hand on a number of occasions, and of representing the views and values of the community in Parliament.”
“For example, a debate was recently held on the banning of non-stun slaughter and I stood up on behalf of the Jewish community to defend its right to practice shechita.”
But he admits there is more work to be done to support the community, adding: “It is more imperative than ever that our synagogues and schools receive protection and I strongly support recent calls for the protection of Jewish faith schools to be state funded, regardless of private or public status. “I would like to see a similar type of funding arrangement extended to synagogues as well. The threat posed to these institutions by anti-Semitic extremists is very real and so the response needs to be unequivocal and across the board. I am also a staunch supporter of the Board of Deputies’ recently released Jewish Manifesto.”
Blackman is most proud of being able to fight for justice for his constituents, particularly in helping get compensation for victims of the collapse of insurer Equitable Life.
He secured the £20million funding needed by the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore to go ahead with its redevelopment plans. He adds: “It’s always been about the little victories for me; every time a constituent has come to me with a problem and I’ve been able to help, that has carried its own reward.”
Blackman says the community can expect the same attitude of having someone by their side from the Tories, adding: “The Prime Minister, David Cameron, promised only last month that Israel ‘will never be alone’ and that with him ‘you will always have a British Prime Minister whose belief in Israel is unbreakable and whose commitment to Israel’s security will always be rock solid’.
“A Conservative Government will stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel, instead of sniping from the sidelines. “We have a strong manifesto, which will deliver for communities across the country and the Jewish community can expect to reap the rewards of our successful long-term economic plan. “Should I be re-elected this May, the Jewish community in Harrow East can rest assured that it will have a staunch defender in Parliament who has a track record of responding to their views and who will always represent their needs.”
A HARROW resident, Uma Kumaran’s family escaped the civil war in Sri Lanka to settle in the constituency. They had to build their lives from scratch and now Kumaran is ready for this big political battle to oust the Tories from Harrow East and bring Labour back to the constituency. She has experience of the outside world, having worked for the NHS and has political experience as a researcher in Westminster.
Kumaran says: “I will be an MP who will speak for the many and not just the few at the top. I’ll be an MP who fights to build a country where the next generation can do better than the last and one who understands what it is like to live in Harrow, and shares the same concerns and has the same aspirations for the future as many in Harrow East.” If elected, she says she will work to bring all the different communities of Harrow together. “Harrow is host to a vibrant and richly diverse network of communities, in fact we are the most religiously diverse borough in the entire country,” she acknowledges.
“As for promoting communities, we need only start by looking at what the Jewish community already does. There are the fantastic Chanukah celebrations, their central role in making Holocaust Memorial Day so meaningful, the wide involvement in charitable endeavours, both Jewish and non-Jewish.”
Kumaran says she has been privileged to have shared in Jewish celebrations around homes and synagogues of Harrow, adding: “I would love to see Harrow-wide appreciation and involvement in all the high points of the Jewish calender, as I would like to see the same involvement in other faith community events. “We need to share in each other’s celebrations, customs and sorrows – this is what will continue to keep our community united. If elected, I would continue to work closely with faith groups and organisations to promote and engage different communities to come together.”
She admits there are battles that she is willing to tackle, such as security at schools, the ability to buy kosher food and the freedom to practice Jewish customs and rituals at shul. On Israel, she insists the Jewish community can count on the Labour Party’s support, explaining: “First and foremost, I am asking Jewish and other voters to put their faith in me. Of course, I represent a party, which has a leader in Ed Miliband that has a strong and unwavering line on a two-state solution, on boycotts and on anti-Semitism.”
“There will be times when, I am sure, Jewish and other voters feel upset or angry about a decision of a particular party but that is ultimately what leadership is about. Our line is clear and I hope my Jewish friends and other Jewish voters will know this to be the case. “On a personal note, my parents came here as the result of a brutal civil war, I understand the long-lasting impact of war and know that the process to work towards reconciliation can be a long one – that’s why we need sensible voices working towards this and I will be that voice for and in Harrow East.”