LONDON - Hours before ballots were closed in the United Kingdom's historic elections, Britain's Jews were still deliberating over who deserves their vote. In London's Finchley and Hampstead boroughs, a range of opinions could be heard.
Barry Edwards, a pensioner from Hampstead, volunteers to assist voters at the polling stations. Edwards said he has always voted Conservative, and proudly wears the party's band on his wrist. He says that while most Jews note Labor's support of Israel,
the Conservative Party and its leader David Cameron, less vocal in his support, is still considered a friendly ally. To Edwards' sorrow, the Foreign Office tends to support Arab states.
Lyn and Robert Winton, like other couples voting in Finchley, disagree between them. While most women vote Labor, many husbands prefer the Conservatives.
But the Wintons agree on one thing: Anything except the Liberal Democrats. The party which surprised the pundits and turned the elections into a three-way race, is anti-Israel and anti-Semitic, they say. They are not Jewish, but similar opinions have been voiced by many Jews, as well as by Israeli sources.
The Wintons – he's Tory, she's Labor (Photo: Hagit Klaiman)
Lyn Winton, who works in a society for Holocaust remembrance, explained that she voted Labor mainly because she can't bring herself to vote Tory (Conservatives), but she will not be disappointed if the Tories win. She says that current Prime Minister Gordon Brown has strongly supported Holocaust studies in the UK, but supposes that the Ministry of Education under Shadow Education Minister Mike Gove would continue this support.
Among Jews, as among the population in general, the Conservative Party is leading, mostly because of the perceived need for change in a country mired in economic crisis. Alex Harris, also a pensioner, declares himself a Tory and says most of those around him are too. He says most UK governments were friendly towards Israel, and none of the leaders was asked about his attitude to Israel before the elections – because they would all declare themselves pro-Israel.
Harris adds that, unfortunately, the political situation in which Britain finds itself today will cause a waste of public funds because none of the parties will be able to form a coalition and will be forced to rely on the support of smaller parties – like in Israel.
Harris is afraid that this situation, in which no party will gain more than 300 seats in Parliament, as expected, will be bad for Britain. He says we still haven't seen the worst – after the elections, Britain will wake up to a very harsh reality.
Some Jewish voters said that without a strong Tory majority, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg will be Foreign Secretary, which may make things tough for Israel considering that Clegg was behind the move to label settlement goods and even opposed changes to the law that enables senior Israeli figures to be arrested in the UK.
Claire, a teacher and ardent supporter of the Conservative Party, is certain that the Liberal Democrats pose a danger to Israel. She says Clegg's declarations of commitment to Israel in the interview with the Jewish Chronicle are not sincere. Clegg learned how to play the game from the best, she says, so he must not be trusted.