By Justin Cohen
The Tory incumbents in Britain’s two most Jewish constituencies were celebrating re-election this week amid mixed fortunes for the main parties in areas where London Jewry is most focused.
Mike Freer won Finchley and Golders Green by more than 5,000 votes, while Matthew Offord took neighbouring Hendon with a majority of just under 4,000. But the party’s Lee Scott narrowly lost out to Labour’s Wes Streeting in Ilford North.
Despite a poll last month suggesting Jewish Labour rival Sarah Sackman had pulled ahead of Freer following a campaign that attracted widespread praise, the Tory vice chairman won 25,835 votes to Sackman’s 20,173 – seeing his majority fall by just 800.
Freer told Jewish News his campaign was ratcheted up after that shock poll. “It’s humbling that people trust you to be their MP for another five years. I want to get cracking on the promises I’ve made.”
He said he would work to increase housing stock and for a permanent breast screening unit at Finchley Memorial Hospital. He also pledged to continue standing up “as a friend of Israel and the community, I’ll continue to stand up for what I believe in”.
Describing standing as “the privilege of my life”, Sackman vowed to continue campaigning on a local level as she had before being selected. “Politics doesn’t just happen once every five years,” she said. “If people think I have something to offer I will listen to that.”
David Cameron had warned that the ultra-marginal constituency of Hendon would be a measure of whether the Tories continued to govern – and so it proved as Offord defeated Andrew Dismore for the second consecutive election.
Offord’s majority of nearly 4,000 – compared with just 106 in 2010 – was seen as not only a reflection of the extent of Tory successes nationwide but also by some observers as a result of Labour’s stance on Israel.
Further challenges to shechita and the SNP’s stance on Israel and the Palestinians were among the challenges Offord – who will visit Israel this summer – anticipated in the new Parliament. In a night of few positives for Labour nationally, former NUS president Wes Streeting ended Lee Scott’s 10-year stint in the Commons by overturning a 5,000 majority to win by 589 in Ilford North.
Streeting, a close ally of the Jewish community, said he was “completely ecstatic and somewhat in shock”. He added: “We achieved a fantastic swing and with the best campaign team in the world. I can’t wait to represent the community I live in and have served as a councillor for.”
The one-time student leader also said it was “frightening” that Scott was unable to attend some hustings owing to the anti-Semitism and death threats he had faced while an MP. Scott described the events of recent days as “draining and upsetting” but added: “Once the upset of losing has gone away, I’ll have some fantastic memories. I’ve had the greatest honour in the world. At the end of the day, 21,000 voted for me and I nearly hung on. I wish Wes well.”
Scott, who has already ruled out standing again, listed his work with children with special needs and to help the Tamil community as among the highlights of his time in office.
Alan Mendoza finished second in Brent Central. Hannah David narrowly failed to unseat shadow Middle East minister Gareth Thomas in Harrow West. But Bob Blackman confounded the polls by winning Harrow East by more than 4,700 votes over Uma Kumaran.
Oliver Dowden, the former deputy Chief of Staff to David Cameron, triumphed in the safe Tory seat of Hertsmere, the constituency with the fastest growing Jewish community.
Tulip Siddiq retained Glenda Jackson’s Hampstead and Kilburn seat for Labour with Tory rival Simon Marcus 1,138 votes behind.