I am not an historian, decent author or a journalist, and the chances are that unless there is a link or reference to somewhere else, the perpetrator is yours truly – Renaud Sarda. I created this blog as a focal point, to arm people with arguments and facts that they can perhaps use to counter biased media reporting and anti-Israel propaganda, and to help counter (BDS) campaign. I am a Zionist/Sephardi/Jew who will fly the Israeli flag, and defend whatever Israel does.
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Thursday, 22 January 2015
British voters open to a Jewish prime minister — but some are more
welcoming than others
The horrific murder of four Jewish men in a Paris supermarket ago has understandably provoked a debate about levels of anti-Semitism throughout Europe, including, of course, the UK. According to some campaigning organisations things aren’t good and may be getting worse.
But what, if any, are the electoral implications? As part of my research on the Labour Party, I commissioned the polling company YouGov to find out how British voters would feel about a Jewish politician leading a political party and making it into Number 10.
This might well happen sooner than many voters realise. Admittedly, the chances of Labour winning a comfortable overall majority look vanishingly small right now. Labour could, however, emerge as the largest party or finish just a handful of seats behind the Conservatives. In that case, depending on the choices made by other parties, Ed Miliband could become Britain’s first Jewish prime minister – or, depending on how we treat Benjamin Disraeli, at least the first since 1880.
In fact, only a third of UK voters actually know the Labour leader is Jewish. And those planning to vote Labour are less aware of it than those planning to vote for the Conservatives, the Lib Dems or UKIP.
Even if more people did know Miliband (or any other party leader) was Jewish, it seems unlikely that it would have much impact. The vast majority of respondents – some 83% – said that it would make no difference to their voting intentions.
There were, however, some differences between the supporters of the four parties under consideration. Some 13% of UKIP voters said they would be less likely to vote for a party with a Jewish leader. Only 7% of Conservative voters said the same. For the Liberal Democrat voters, the figure stood at 6% and for Labour 4%.
And UKIP voters were less likely to see a Jewish prime minister as “equally acceptable” as a prime minister from another faith. Only 48% of those intending to vote UKIP agreed when asked, which compared with 62% of voters in general. The highest level of agreement came from Lib Dem and Labour supporters, at 73% and 72%. Conservative supporters were not far behind at 65%.
Beyond the ballot
As for anti-Semitism more generally, the picture is far from perfect but perhaps not as worrying as it is in other countries in Europe. Just 10% of all respondents agreed with the statement that “Jews have too much influence in this country” – although once again UKIP supporters stood out somewhat. Some 18% of them agreed with this statement, compared to 9% of those planning to vote Conservative, 10% of those planning to vote Labour and 5% of those planning to vote Lib Dem.
It is also worth noting that 23% of UKIP supporters disagreed with the statement. But that compared to 38% of Conservative supporters, 44% of Labour supporters and 47% of Lib Dem supporters.
While it’s important not to exaggerate them, the differences between supporters of different parties – or rather the supporters of one party and the rest – are quite striking.
While political leaders clearly have some responsibility for those who stand as candidates for, or who simply join, their parties, they can hardly be held responsible for the opinions, however controversial or unsavoury, of those who choose to vote for them.
Ultimately, these differences between voters shouldn’t, perhaps, be allowed to obscure the wider picture, which actually doesn’t look too bleak – especially if one takes change over time into account.
In January 2004, when British voters were presented with the same statement about Jews having too much influence, 18%, rather than today’s 10%, agreed. Back then, it was the Conservative rather than the Labour Party which was led by a Jew – Michael Howard. Asked today whether such a politician would make an equally acceptable prime minister as a member of another faith, six out of ten say yes. In 2004, it was only five out of ten. And now only 6% actively say no. Back then it was 18%. This is surely progress – albeit slower than many would like.