With just a week to go until the most important election of my lifetime, I am determined to build a country that works for everyone; a country where no matter who you are, or where you’re from, you can achieve your goals.
The Jewish community has made an immense contribution to British life, whether it’s in business, the arts or the charitable sector – Jewish people in Britain today set an example to us all. We have some fantastic Jewish candidates standing for the Conservatives at this election, and many more like me who are not Jewish, but understand and support both the Jewish community and Israel. I’m proud we’re a party which has representatives from every community in Britain, from council members right through to government ministers.
I know there are very real concerns in the Jewish community at this election time, not least what a newly-elected government will do about anti-Semitism. We will always take a zero-tolerance approach to such hatred, in contrast to what we have regrettably seen from Jeremy Corbyn.
In December the Conservative Government formally adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism. Sir Eric Pickles, the UK Government’s special envoy for post-Holocaust Issues, led the way in getting the IHRA to agreement in the first place, and Britain was one of the first countries to adopt the definition.
We will also stand firm against terrorism, whether it occurs in Manchester or Tel Aviv. In our manifesto for this election, we have pledged to establish a Commission for Countering Extremism to root out extremism and anti-Semitism in society.
We will push forward with our plan to tackle hate crime committed on the basis of religion. We are also working with the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation to deliver our commitment to a new National Holocaust Memorial and associated learning centre in London.
We have continued to stand up for Israel. We have refused to support one-sided and unfair criticism of Israel internationally, whether at the Paris Peace Conference in January or in voting at the UN Human Rights Council, UNESCO, and even the WHO this spring.
Equally, I have reiterated to Prime Minister Netanyahu, most recently in February, our firm commitment to a two-state solution, based on direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, as the best way to bring about stability and peace in the region. Part of that can be achieved through the enhancement of our strong economic relationship.
The UK is Israel’s second-largest trading partner and the country’s number one destination for investment in Europe, with more than 300 Israeli companies operating here.
We have taken firm action to stop counter-productive and damaging municipal boycotts against Israel and will legislate on this.. We should celebrate and build on that economic relationship, condemning any attempt to undermine that.
We have defended the right of Jews to practice shechita, and we will continue to protect methods of religious slaughter. We will continue to fund the Jewish Community Protective Security Grant with £13.4m in this financial year. This will help protect Jewish schools, colleges, nurseries and synagogues.
We have opened seven new Jewish schools across the country under the free school programme, and we have a manifesto commitment to replace the unfair and ineffective inclusivity rules which limit, new, oversubscribed faith schools from admitting more than half their intake on the basis of religion. I know the Jewish community leadership has welcomed our plans, and I am keen to see more high-quality Jewish faith schools being set up by the community.
The stark reality is that every vote for any other party at this election is a vote to send Jeremy Corbyn one step closer to Downing Street. I pledge to stand firm on the issues which matter specifically to the Jewish community, and to be your champion in the next Government. I have been strong and consistent in my approach to these issues, in contrast to Jeremy Corbyn and his team. That is the stark reality of the choice we face and the choice we must focus on over the next week.