Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, Jeremy Newmark, has announced that he will become Labour’s candidate for the constituency of Finchley and Golders Green in London. The seat is held by Conservative MP Mike Freer who won by 5662 votes in 2015. But Mr Newmark believes it is winnable despite the unpopularity of the Labour party especially amongst its Jewish voters. The Finchley and Golders Green constituency is believed to have the largest Jewish electorate in the country.
Meanwhile Hendon, which has the second highest proportion of Jewish constituents, will see a battle between Conservative MP Mathew Offord, who was re-selected by his Association earlier this week, and Labour candidate Mike Katz, who is Vice-Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement. Mr Offord beat former Labour MP Andrew Dismore in 2015 by a larger-than- expected majority of 3724, and Labour believe they could win Hendon this time.
But according to most opinion polls, the Conservatives hold a national lead over Labour of at least 20 points, and many Labour pro-Israel Jewish MPs like Ruth Smeeth in Stoke-on-Trent North, Ian Austin in Dudley North and Ivan Lewis in Bury South could lose their seats.
Labour has in any case performed poorly in Greater Manchester this year, losing the Kersal ward on Salford City Council in March for the first time in decades. Around 40% of voters in the ward are Jewish.
Britain’s oldest Jewish MP, 83-year-old David Winnick, who won by 1,937 votes in Walsall North for Labour in 2015, could also find himself out.
Pro-Israel Jewish Labour MPs also under threat include Joan Ryan, who is the chair of Labour Friends of Israel. Ms Ryan holds a majority of just 1,086 in her Enfield North constituency. Louise Ellman, who has been an MP for Liverpool Riverside since 1997, and Luciana Berger of Liverpool Wavertree, who won her seat back in 2010, will also be strongly targeted.
Conservative MP Grant Shapps will be standing again for Welwyn Hatfield, and Lee Scott, who lost his Ilford North seat by 589 votes in 2015 to Labour’s Wes Streeting, will fight to be it back again for the Conservative Party.
Among other Jewish MPs outlining their intentions, Conservatives Andrew Percy, Jonathan Djanogly, Robert Halfon, Michael Fabricant, Richard Harrington, Julian Lewis, Michael Ellis, and Lucy Frazer all said they intended to defend their seats.
Sir Oliver Letwin, MP for West Dorset, had planned to retire from the Commons in 2020, but said he would stand next month.
Julian Huppert, the Lib Dem who lost his Cambridge seat two years ago by 599 votes to Labour, will stand again.
John Bercow denied rumours that he might retire and said he would also seek a return as Speaker of the Commons.
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron last week surprised many by taking decisive action against former MP David Ward from running for his old seat in Bradford East, after Farron was selected as the local party’s candidate. The dramatic move came after outgoing Conservative Friends of Israel chair, Sir Eric Pickles MP, said he was “disgusted” by Ward’s candidacy at Prime Ministers Question’s and called on Theresa May to encourage all parties to adopt the IHRA anti-Semitism definition.
Mrs May responded by saying, “People will be, I think, rightly disappointed to see the Liberal Democrats re-adopt a candidate with a questionable record on anti-Semitism.”
Tim Farron later said, “I believe in a politics that is open, tolerant and united. David Ward is unfit to represent the party and I have sacked him.”
Hendon Liberal Democrats Candidate Alasdair Hill welcomed the news, while Liberal Democrat peer Lord Palmer of Childs Hill said he had helped persuade the party leadership to drop Ward from the 2017 election list.
In January 2013, Ward said on Holocaust Memorial Day that he was “saddened… that Jews could, within a few years of liberation from the death camps, be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel.”
In July of the same year he was suspended for three months for refusing to apologise for asking, “Am I wrong or are am I right? At long last the Zionists are losing the battle – how long can the Apartheid State of Israel last?”
Although he did eventually apologise for the “unintended offence,” he caused further controversy by asking whether he could make the same remarks again using the term “Jewish community” instead of “the Jews.”
When war broke out in Gaza in 2014, Ward suggested that he might be ready to fire rockets into Israel.
Then again on Holocaust Memorial Day in January 2016, Ward tweeted “#HolocaustMemorialDay theme ‘Don’t stand by’ we must speak out for all – including #Palestinians – who face persecution and discrimination.”
A disciplinary hearing will take place after the election in June. Mr Ward’s party membership has been suspended, meaning he is no longer a Lib Dem councillor in Bradford.
Another Liberal Democrat candidate, Ashuk Ahmed, standing for the Luton South constituency, was also was suspended last week for a series of anti-Semitic posts on social media.