The Jewish community in Barnet is sleepwalking towards a disaster. Sadly, it seems to me that through cowardice on the left and misguided loyalty on the right, they are failing the community on a grand scale. What am I talking about? The forthcoming GLA elections. The two credible candidates are Brian Coleman for the Conservative Party and Andrew Dismore for the Labour party. Both of these politicians have a long history of excellent relations with the mainstream Jewish community. In a normal election, party preferences would mean that a Jewish voter would cast their vote purely on the party preference as they would be comfortable that both men would support the community.
This however is not a normal election. It is for the role of GLA rep for Barnet and Camden. Most Barnet voters have no clue of the role of the GLA. It was created to "oversee" the Mayor. This is where the issue becomes relevant to the Jewish community. Who is going to be the next Mayor of London? The vast majority of Jewish people in London hope that it is Boris Johnson. They do not trust Ken Livingstone and many perceive him as anti Israeli and anti semitic. I've spoken privately to many local Jewish Labour activists who are horrified at the way Ken Livingstone has seemingly gone out of his way to insult the community. Sadly, any who have spoken out have been given a ritual stoning by the wider Labour movement. In normal circumstances, this would alienate the community from the whole Labour movement (with ample justification).
The issue is that sometimes, you have to consider the wider picture. The budget has been a disaster for the Tories. George Osborne's attack on pensioners could well be the magic bullet for the Labour party that brings down Boris. The Jewish community has to face up to the very real prospect of a Ken Livingstone mayoralty. This is where the identity of the GLA rep becomes important. If Barnet swings behind Brian Coleman, it will clearly be down to the Jewish community. Coleman is highly disliked and distrusted by virtually everyone else. How will Livingstone react? Lets just be charitable and say that looking after a section of the community which hates his guts will not be top of his agenda. He cant stand Coleman, his Union backers can't stand Coleman and it will give him every reason to stick the boot in where it hurts. The more Coleman will bleat, the more Ken will enjoy it.
But what about if Andrew Dismore is the GLA rep? He will have a slender majority and Livingstone will be obliged to listen to his colleague and not antagonise his supporters. Labour want to win back the marginal seats of Hendon and Finchley. They believe that the Lib Dem vote will collapse at the general election and that they have a fantastic chance. Livingstone is a party man and he have no choice but to give Andrew Dismore every chance of helping this revival. However you look at it, with Livingstone as Mayor, there is no way at all that the Barnet Jewish community will get anything from the London authorities unless Dismore is elected. Livingstone hates free schools and academies. With Coleman as rep, these will be under massive threat. There are huge areas of policy the Mayor controls and an impotent Coleman would just look on, no doubt screaming in high pitched anger, as measure after measure is passed attacking his closest supporters.
So what, I hear you ask, would happen if Boris gets in and Dismore is elected? Well first, Boris is never going to attack the Jewish community. The Tory strategists would put the loss down to Colemans own problems caused by parking. They would say that Colemans anti motorist policies caused his downfall. They would actually take note. This would be good for all small businesses and shop owners in Barnet. Dismore has shown himself to be an effective operator for all sections of the community. Rumour has it that Boris would be none to upset to see the back of Colemans buffoonary and excess. Coleman is a ticking time bomb. A Dismore victory would diffuse it and the reasons would be clear. Boris would be viewed as blameless for Colemans downfall. If Coleman loses and Boris wins, it would clearly be attributable to the parking policies, which Boris has no truck with.
It is high time that the leaders of the community pulled their heads out of the sand. If anyone believes Ken would do anything other than punish Barnet and make Coleman look impotent, they are deluded. Even if you think Boris has it sown up, just remember that Osbornes granny tax has even been denounced by the Tory supporting Daily Mail. Whilst the Jewish community in Barnet is large, in London as a whole it isn't, which is why Ken Livingstone is quite happy to upset it. The only protection will be an Andrew Dismore victory.
If Coleman gets elected alongside Ken Livingstone as mayor, I think it's inevitable that a chill wind will blow through Barnet for the Jewish community. Being a community leader means sometimes telling people things they don't want to hear. It is time for the local community leaders in Barnet to spell out to those they lead, exactly what the likely out comes of this election will bring.