When we wrote the first draft of what became the "Leaked letter from the Jewish Community to Ed Miliband" we had just attended a most frustrating meeting with Ken Livingstone. It was no better than an equally irritating meeting that a number of us had held two years before. It was no better than many previous encounters during Ken's mayoralty between the Ken Livingstone and the Jewish community.
So much about Ken is good for London and even for the Jewish community. Ken's policies on Housing, Transport, Regeneration, Business, Young People, Crime and so much more is streets ahead of Boris. It was Ken, who invested in Simcha in the Square, Chanukah in the Square and who cared about our social issues, our demographic issues and engaged with us. We credit Ken for his refusal to sit on a platform with the BNP candidate. Ken also opposed the Academic Boycott of Israeli Academics.
However, Ken regularly upsets us on Israel and on reaching out in what seems inappropriate ways to political Islamists, who he rarely exposes when they are anti-semitic. He fails to understand our issues with his involvement with Iranian Press TV or with Sheik Yussuf Al Qaradawi. He also does say different things to different people.
Ken did realise he had offended us and he did release an unusually strong opinion piece in the Jewish Chronicle. It was welcomed but it did not persuade many. We urged Ken to go further, which he has not done but he did meet us this week and we are pleased that the meeting was softer and more amicable.
Ken is mistreated by the right wing press. The video of Ken at the Finsbury Park Mosque shows that he was unfairly quoted & written up by Andrew Gilligan, based on the video evidence that Andrew Gilligan himself has used in his Finsbury Park Mosque article. However we do wish that Ken had read some of the prophets such as Amos and Hosea or the Ethics of the Fathers from Jewish scriptures and chose to quote them as well as the Koran.
Neither Ken nor the Jewish Chronicle have understood the complex issues around Jews and voting preferences. We still have not managed to persuade Ken, that wealth is not the only major determinant of voting preferences. Ken does not register that Stamford Hill, a poorer community is not totally Labour voting, whilst the more affluent Finchley is not as Conservative voting as he would predict.
Actually when it comes to the Jewish community the opposite is true. According to their religious values, the Jews of Stamford Hill are much more socially conservative than those living around them and vote Tory. The opposite is true in Finchley where the Jews of Finchley are more supportive of the Labour party than those living around them. This shows wealth cannot be the key determinant of voting for our community.
We can further confirm this by pointing to Hackney, where the only non-Labour members on Hackney Council are elected from the Jewish area in Stamford Hill, and most of those councillors are Charedi Orthodox Jews. However in Finchley and throughout the more affluent Jewish communities across North London, votes for Labour are higher than in the Non-Jewish community around them – this is documented in JPR surveys.
There are many factors. First the religious right is socially very conservative which is more relevant to its voting than its wealth. The more wealthy parts of the Jewish community through North London are more modern in their religion, and retain strong prophetic Jewish values which some couple with their family experiences as 2nd and 3rd generation immigrant communities retaining political connections. We have sent all the figures to Ken. This is not an accusation of anti-semitism, but Ken has not listened or absorbed the statistical information.
We continue to emphasise this as Ken needs to win the votes of our community but also many other migrant communities who may have taken a similar journey.
Ken has heard from us that he needs to work with the London Jewish Forum and not play favourites within the Jewish community. He has agreed and promised to meet with the Forum four times a year if elected. He has also promised to go to Limmud.
On Israel, Ken's comments are not always beyond the pale. At our meeting, he repeated his commitment to a working two state policy with strong economic connections between the Israeli and Palestinian communities. He also reminded us that he has visited Israel, but has not visited Iraq or Iran. His comments on Israel in his article in the Jewish Chronicle also were equally inoffensive. However, we know that there have been moments when this has not been the case. We urge Ken to maintain focus and not to drift away from a peaceful workable 2 state solution if he feels the need to comment in the future.
The Labour candidates for the GLA are impressive. The gap Ken faced is narrowing. Nationally the Conservative coalition government is making serious errors, seemingly daily. Maybe Cameron needs Boris.
Under Boris, we have seen no significant transport initiatives, no new housing projects, cancelling of various projects with all communities including our own. Broken promises. Boris in his first year in office promised to sort out the 210 bus route so it would go from Golders Green to Stamford Hill, it still ends at inconvenient Finsbury Park. It is still not resolved.
Under Boris as Mayor, we will get a few laughs, but little service and not much engagement.
Under Ken as Mayor, we will get irritated, upset and annoyed but we will get lots of services and lots of engagement and an improved London.
We are sure that Ken will sort the 210 bus out.
We commend The London Jewish Forum for its willingness to stand up and manage the community's relationship with Ken, or whoever is elected mayor. The Forum is a non-partisan body who organized events with all candidates both at this election and in 2008. The Forum must continue that scrutiny diligently, particularly if Ken is elected.
If Ken was still 6-8 points behind then maybe one would not vote or vote wastefully, but it is 51%-49% according to the latest opinion polls.
With our eyes open and breathing deeply maybe with a sigh or two, the time has come to endorse Ken Livingstone for Mayor of London...
Andrew Gilbert, Neil Nerva, Judith Bara and Jem Stein (all in a personal capacity)