By Joe Millis
Politicians from four of the parties contesting this month’s European Parliamentary elections have rejected extremism, urging voters to back their parties.
The four – Labour’s Claude Moraes, Conservative Marina Yannakoudakis, Baroness Sarah Ludford of the Liberal Democrats and the Greens’ Danny Bates – were speaking last week at an EU election hustings organised by the Board of Deputies and the London Jewish Forum.
All the candidates were clear that while they viewed the EU as “not perfect”, it was better to stay in and fight for reform. Baroness Ludford, opening the hustings, said that “we need to ratchet up the fight against anti-Semitism. EU member countries should call each other out on what is going on domestically in other member states and not hold back”.
The Labour and Lib Dem candidates made it clear their party leaders were against any legislation against shechita (religious slaughter) – while Bates, a committed vegan, said his party was in favour of proper labelling “so people know what they are getting”.
Former Barnet Councillor Yannakoudakis said she had strong ties with the Jewish community. “As a member of the Greek community, I recognise that we have common values when it comes to family, work ethic and good food,” she said. “I have worked for and supported Israel in the European Parliament. I have also fought against shechita being banned.”
Moraes said the situation was such that far-right politicians would be elected, such as those from Jobbik of Hungary, Marine Le Pen’s French National Front and the Dutchman Geert Wilders. “For the Jewish community, this means voting becomes more important than ever before because your experiences matter,” he said.
The elephant in the room, however, was UKIP, which declined to send anyone to the hustings.
The party’s representative, Gerard Batten, sent a letter instead, laying out UKIP’s views. He wrote that while he “sympathised” with some of the points raised in the BoD/LJF EU election manifesto, it was “incompatible with UKIP’s aim, which is to withdraw from the EU and the restoration of British democratic rights and national self-determination”.
He added: “We are opposed to any legislation emanating from the EU in principle. We, therefore, see no benefit in attending your hustings only to disappoint you.”
The candidates also answered questions on the political groupings to which their parties belonged in the EU Parliament, with concern being raised about the Tories’ allies from the Baltic states and Eastern Europe, who have expressed anti-gay views.