Mike Freer and Matthew Offord have retained the two seats with the largest Jewish communities but saw their majorities dramatically slashed by the chair and vice-chair of the Jewish Labour Movement.
Jeremy Newmark and Mike Katz appeared to be on course to spring huge upsets by taking the seats after counting got underway but it’s believed postal votes took the Tory incumbents over the line.
Freer defeated Newmark by just over 1,600 votes, seeing his majority sink from over 5,000 two year ago. Offord clung on by around 700 votes after a fraught campaign in which he was attacked for backing Brexit and publicly accused by a widow of ignoring her husband’s written appeal on benefits.
Freer, one of the Jewish community’s greatest friends in Parliament, said it wasn’t looking good for him at one point in the night but told Jewish News it was “pleasing” to have been re-elected for a third time. He admitted to “disappointment” about the reduced majority and to have lost parliamentary colleagues while saying “clearly” Newmark had fought a good campaign.
He added: “The indication on the doorstep was the Jewish community was remaining loyal to me for which I’m very grateful. It’s a good feeling to have my work for my constituents recognised.”
Asked if the national campaign had become a liability, he said it is difficult to find a formula that works as well “in London and Carlisle”, but insisted Theresa May would still be able to lead Brexit negotiations in less than two weeks.
Newmark said: “To reduce Freer’s majority by such a margin is a signal that key messages of my campaign that people in Finchley and Golders Green are worried about the politics of resentment and intolerance that comes as part and parcel of the Brexit debate. That people here want to protect local schools and invest in world-class education.”
He pledged: “I will continue to fight racism and ant-Semitism in society, in Parliament and, if necessary, in my own party; the results across Barnet indicate that many people think it is.”
Newmark split opinion when he announced his candidature to try to unseat one of the community’s key allies.
In Chipping Barnet, former Northern Ireland Secretary almost saw her 7000 majority wiped out, but just hung on to defeat Labour rival Emma Whysall by 353 votes.