Tory hopeful Shaun Bailey has hit out against “identity politics,” claiming it divides communities.
The mayoral candidate met Jewish leaders at the kosher cafe Mr Baker in Hendon on Monday after visiting the offices of the Community Security Trust (CST).
He was joined at the cafe by Board of Deputies vice president Edwin Shuker, and Russell Langer and Adam Langleben, from the Jewish Leadership Council.
“We think that’s cohesion by saying to people ‘here’s your difference and we’ll work on it’. But what we should be talking about is where we’re all similar and taking the best from each community,” he said.
Speaking to the meeting organised by the JLC, Bailey hailed barmitzvahs as a ritual that could offer lessons to young men affected by crime.
“Just in case you haven’t noticed I happen to be a black man, but I like the idea of a barmitzvah and and I’m not just saying that because it’s a nice thing to be saying,” he told the meeting.
“If you look at what’s happening with crime among young men, a lot of it is a distorted version of what it is to be a man. A barmitzvah actually puts a stake in the ground and says ‘we’re going to treat you like an adult, but of course you will have to behave like an adult,'” he added.
When asked to describe his first encounter with the Jewish community, he referred to a childhood friend called Jamie. “He was sort of how I saw the Jewish community,” he said.
Bailey affectionately described the similarities he observed between black and Jewish communities while growing up in London. “I grew up for years just thinking the Jewish community was like the black community in that, you know, it was that village mentality. Everybody knew your business and was talking about it,” he revealed.
“It’s only later on when I got older and quite involved in public life that antisemitism, and that aspect of the Jewish community and the pressures that the Jewish community are under, that’s when that became more apparent,” he added.
On the subject of community security, Bailey vowed to keep “constant contact” with the CST and maintain funding for the organisation. He also reiterated a pledge to ban the Al Quds Day march, an annual demonstration run by the Islamic Human Rights Commission.
Describing the protest as a “terrifying” event for “a lot of people” he claimed it could be “a haven for hate crime” and a ban would encourage a “different conversation.”
“I wouldn’t start a march today that scares the significant part of London, so why do we keep it going?” he added.
On the prospect of a trip to Israel if elected mayor, Bailey, who previously visited the country, said he was “dying” to return and pledged to do so “very quickly” to encourage economic ties with the UK after Brexit.
“A lot of London’s future is twinned with what’s going on in Israel,” he said. “You’ve got lots of innovation, lots of companies are growing, you have lots of finance and lots of access our markets.”
The Conservative hopeful vying to unseat Sadiq Khan is joined by Siobhan Benita (Liberal Democrat) and former Conservative MP Rory Stewart (Independent).