More than 550 guests — including Home Secretary Amber Rudd, the president of the World Jewish Congress Ronald Lauder, and the new French Ambassador to Britain, Jean-Pierre Jouyet on his first day in post — heard the Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson praise the way in which Scottish politicians had tackled anti-Semitism.
Ms Davidson, in conversation with the BBC’s director of news and current affairs, James Harding, at the Board of Deputies president’s dinner, said: “In Scotland we have seen an issue, particularly with some of the Jewish community. We’ve seen some terrible things daubed on the side of a temple, we’ve seen a senior rabbi faced with people who were giving Nazi salutes as he went to a place of worship.
“One of the things I’m proud of in Scotland is that there is actually political leadership against this.”
Widely admired as a forthright politician who has rebuilt the Conservative Party in Scotland, Ms Davidson was happy to praise one of her predecessors, Lord Balfour, the centenary of whose Balfour Declaration about a Jewish homeland is being celebrated this year.
She was happy to describe herself as a “friend of Israel, but a critical friend”, noting that in the last 10 years there had been a 60 per cent rise in trade between Scotland and Israel.
However, she was less keen on what she termed “illegal settlements”.
Though Mr Harding teased Ms Davidson about the possibility of her leading the Conservative Party, the politician jokingly confided that her real ambition was to appear on Strictly Come Dancing.
The Board’s president, Jonathan Arkush, paid tribute to the community members who enable the organisation to do its important work. He said: “Without you there would be no Board of Deputies. We would not be able to serve our community, our community’s future, which is also your future”.
Members of the World Jewish Congress executive, holding its annual meeting in London this week, and representing 20 countries around the world, attended the dinner, as did British ambassador to Israel, David Quarrey.