Labour’s candidates for London Mayor this week moved to build bridges with the Jewish community – with one saying sorry for strained relations between the party and Anglo-Jewry and another saying such tensions were “unacceptable”, writes Justin Cohen.
Tottenham MP David Lammy said in a letter to newly-elected Board of Deputies’ president Jonathan Arkush that he was “so disappointed” his party lost the trust of many. “I want to be Labour’s mayor of London for all of London’s communities,” he wrote in a congratulatory message. “So it falls to me to apologise for this sorry state of affairs. I never want to go back to a situation where so many Jewish Londoners found it difficult to support Labour. This is something I feel very strongly about.”
Sadiq Khan, the MP for Tooting and Labour’s London general election campaign manager, also said he wanted to be a “unifying mayor” that reached out to every community “not win by divide and rule”.
He uses an article in the Jewish News to acknowledge the sores between Labour and the community in recent months including when Ken Livingstone, who this week backed Khan’s candidacy, ran for City Hall. “It’s a matter of real regret to me that twice in recent years – in the London mayoral election and the general election – London’s Jewish community has shown its dissatisfaction with the Labour Party,” he writes. “In the general election, I ran Labour’s campaign in London. We gained seven marginal seats but, despite excellent candidates and campaigns, the glaring exceptions to those gains were in areas with significant Jewish communities. I want to be clear – a strained relationship with one of London’s most important minority communities is unacceptable.”
He added: “As a Muslim Londoner, I want to be the best mayor that Jewish Londoners have ever had – the strongest possible champion of your community. I don’t expect Jewish Londoners to rush to re-embrace Labour – trust has to be won back once it is lost.”
Reflecting on his own experiences of Islamophobia, he pledged to make combatting anti-Semitism a top priority. He criticised the Government last summer over its stance during the Israel-Hamas conflict but said: “I won’t be distracted into using the mayoralty to offer commentary on foreign policy issues. I’ll speak out when I have strong views but always be particularly conscious of the need to be a voice for peace and coexistence around the world.”
Four days before officially launching her campaign, former culture secretary Tessa Jowell acknowledged during an address to Young Jewish Care’s Friday night dinner that Labour’s approach to Israel last summer was one contributing factor in the results in Finchley and Hendon, along with the party not speaking to voters’ aspirations.