The election campaign took a distinctly unpleasant turn last week as pro-Palestinian MPs suggested the “Israel lobby” would play a behind-the-scenes role in key constituencies.
Martin Linton, chair of Labour Friends of Palestine, told a meeting at the House of Commons held by the Palestine Solidarity
Campaign and Friends of al-Aqsa: “There are long tentacles of Israel in this country who are funding election campaigns and putting money into the British political system for their own ends.
“You must consider over the next few weeks, when you make decisions about how you vote and how you advise constituents to vote, you must make them aware of the attempt by Israelis and by pro-Israelis to influence the election.”
Mr Linton sits on a tiny 163-vote majority in the London seat of Battersea and is unlikely to survive the election.
The veteran Jewish anti-Zionist MP Sir Gerald Kaufman suggested wealthy members of the community would play a role similar to that of Tory “non-dom” peer Michael Ashcroft. “Just as Lord Ashcroft owns most of the Conservative Party, right-wing Jewish millionaires own the rest,” he said.
Community Security Trust spokesman Mark Gardner said: “Anybody who understands antisemitism will recognise just how ugly and objectionable these quotes are, with their imagery of Jewish control and money power. Ask the average voter who had made these comments, and they would most likely answer that it was the BNP, not a pair of Labour MPs.”
A main concern for the Jewish community will be the threat of the BNP.
The two key target constituencies for the BNP are Barking, where the party’s leader Nick Griffin will stand against Jewish culture minister Margaret Hodge, and East Renfrewshire in Glasgow, where the Scottish BNP leader Gary Raikes will take on Secretary of State for Scotland, Jim Murphy. East Renfrewshire contains Scotland’s largest Jewish community.
Where the BNP is strongest, in parts of the north of England and in east London, the Jewish vote itself will make little difference. However, there are a handful of marginal constituencies where the size of the Jewish communities could make all the difference.
It is very unlikely that Labour can hold on to Margaret Thatcher’s old seat of Finchley and Golders Green, where the incumbent Rudi Vis is standing down and Tory leader of Barnet Council Mike Freer is confident of victory.
In neighbouring Hendon, Andrew Dismore has been a consistent champion of the concerns of the local Jewish community. But after a series of allegations about his expenses, he faces a tough fight with the Tories’ Matthew Offord and Matthew Harris, secretary of Lib Dem Friends of Israel.
One of the most intriguing battles will be for the Bury South seat of Middle East minister Ivan Lewis, a former chair of Manchester Jewish Federation. Although Mr Lewis sits on a substantial majority, he faces a formidable opponent in Michelle Wiseman, Chief Executive of Manchester Jewish Care.