Ilford North, once home to London’s largest Jewish neighbourhoods, has faltered in recent years with four wards in Redbridge seeing their population contract by more than 40 percent.
Schools such as Clore Tikvah and King Solomon have consequently take in more non-Jews. In the 2010 census 10 percent of the constituency was Jewish.
Despite falling numbers, Ilford still holds historical significance as one of the main settling areas after the Jewish community moved from the East End.
By Marc Shoffman
Lee Scott holds a majority of more than 5,000 in this semi-marginal Conservative seat.
He is going for a third term in a row, which may not sound that impressive but is all the more significant after he revealed at the end of last year that he had received death threats and nasty phone calls just for being Jewish.
Scott revealed at the end of last year that he has cancelled drop-in surgeries and he and his wife now regularly do security checks on their cars. Speaking during a parliamentary debate on anti-Semitism, Mr Scott revealed details of a phone call where he was told he should be “stoned to death”. But he insists these sorts of threats haven’t put him off standing: He said: “I love my job and am determined to keep doing it. Threats or criticism from extremists will not deflect me from doing what is right.”
It is not just his own security he is concerned about, adding: “Security is the number one priority and we must ensure that we give the police and security services the means to identify threats to the community. “On this issue we have been well served by our prime minister, David Cameron, and our home secretary, Theresa May, who take the threat posed by anti-Semitism very seriously.”
Mr Scott lists accompanying David Cameron to Israel among his achievements on the last term, adding: “I have a great job that gives me such opportunities and it is an honour and privilege to serve the people of Ilford North.”
But it’s not just Jewish-focused issues the community should worry about, Scott explains: “There are two main issues that are being raised by constituents, Jewish and others, on a regular basis. The first is the economy. Local people understand that if a Government fails to get this right then any other policies and promises are worthless. The improvements we have made to our nation’s finances are having a real impact.”
“The second relates to the protection of our green belt and open spaces such as the Oakfield playing fields. This is a very big local issue and residents don’t want to see local facilities and amenities lost forever.”
Wes Streeting has made a smooth transition from student to local politics. He was president of the Cambridge University Students’ Union before moving on to the National Union of Students and is now deputy leader of Redbridge Borough Council.
Streeting is now looking to make his parliamentary debut as Labour’s candidate for Ilford North, a seat the party came second in during the 2010 election. It was his time as NUS President that demonstrated the support Streeting has for the Jewish community, having stood up to calls for Israel boycotts and helping fight anti-Semitism on campus.
He says: “I have a longstanding, consistent record of standing up against anti-Semitism and against the delegitimisation of Israel. “During my time as president of the National Union of Students, I worked closely with the Union of Jewish Students to promote the welfare of Jewish students at university and led work opposing those pushing for academic boycotts of Israel. I spoke at the Global Forum against anti-Semitism in Jerusalem and in Geneva at the infamous Durban II conference to condemn the event’s indifference to anti-Semitism.”
Mr Streeting already has a good knowledge of constituency issues through his time as a local councillor, explaining: “One of the great things about Ilford North is our diversity as a community. There’s more we can do to learn from different faiths and cultures.
“I see this in action in our wonderful Jewish schools. Clore Tikva, for example, teaches all pupils Hebrew as a foreign language from the age of five and children take part in festivals like Purim whether they’re Jewish or not.
“Initiatives like Mitzvah Day provide an opportunity for the whole community to get involved and as Ilford North’s MP I’d want to play my part in getting the whole community involved in major festivals and events.”
A former president of the Sheffield University Hallam Liberal Democrats, Rich Clare is one of the youngest candidates standing in the election at just 22 years old. But he insists age shouldn’t be a factor, adding: “It’s worth remembering that Parliament is supposed to represent the whole country, old and young. There are plenty of MPs in their 60s and 70s but very few in their 20s.”
“Of course experience is vital and there’s actually a great variety of experience in Parliament in the moment. But when there are millions of young people facing the reality of modern Britain, wondering how they’re going to afford their first home, wondering whether they’ll ever have a good job, I think it would be great to have a voice inside Parliament who knows what that’s like.”
He sees the Jewish community concerns as similar to others of “a strong economy that isn’t built on unsustainable debt, quality schools, a good pensions system so everybody can feel secure for life and protected health spending.”
When it comes to Israel, Clare says it is important to be a “critical friend”. He adds: “We wish to see an immediate end to political paralysis and violence in the Middle East, and a friend because Israeli people have the unequivocal right to feel safe and secure.
We have a really well-informed debate in the party over the region and Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel has been instrumental in leading support for a two-state solution, which is how we believe we may finally see peace and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians.”
Closer to home he says it is important that rising anti-Semitism is tackled: “Tragic acts of terrorism across the world have seen ordinary Jews being victimised and bullied for just going about their lives in the UK. That’s absolutely unacceptable, especially in this day and age. I am in favour of a comprehensive crackdown on sectarian violence and bullying, along with efforts from all communities to come together and promote understanding as the wellbeing of Jewish people is an issue for people of every other faith and those with no religion too.”