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Conference Season Roundup - 2021

The last few weeks has seen politicians, journalists, activists and more gathering for the post-Covid return of party conferences. The JLC were in attendance at both the Conservatives and Labour to follow the key developments and interact with key politicians and policy influencers to amplify and magnify the work of our members.

Conservative Party

This week the Conservative Party were in Manchester for their first in-person conference since they secured an 80-seat majority in the 2019 election. Despite the context of fuel shortages, the mood was relatively upbeat among those in attendance. The Prime Minister concluded the conference with an upbeat speech which, while light on policy announcements, was received well by the party members in attendance.

The JLC were keen to ensure that the Government were able to interact with the local community while in Manchester and one morning facilitated a visit by Work and Pensions Minister Guy Opperman to the The Fed where he met with Jewel and the Friendship Circle.

The Conservative Friends of Israel reception was once again one of the most popular events of the entire conference with a long queue already formed 30 minutes before it was due to begin. Cabinet ministers including Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Party Chairman Oliver Dowden were greeted with loud cheers as they spoke about strengthening the UK-Israel relationship.

CST and the Antisemitism Policy Trust were on a panel organised by Conservative Home with former Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick. The discussion included the community’s support for the upcoming legislation on online harms and the possible implications of the Higher Education Freedom of Speech Bill.

Labour Party

Last week saw Labour in Brighton where delegates voted through the rule changes mandated by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission following the antisemitism crisis in the Party. Our Co-CEO was at the conference and wrote in the Jewish Chronicle that while some issues remain – such as the efforts of a minority of delegates to oppose these new rules – the progress is good for Jews and democracy in general.

Following the vote, the Jewish Labour movement held a well-attended rally with speakers including London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, Margaret Hodge, Ruth Smeeth and Camden Council leader Georgia Gould. The Conference also saw former Labour MP Louise Ellman announce her return to the Party in a sign of support for Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer’s efforts to fight antisemitism.

Starmer used the conference to push through rule changes which he believes will help secure the future of Labour in the coming years. He used his speech on the final day to explain his background and why he became leader of the Labour Party. His speech was regularly interrupted by heckles from far-left members of his Party but he appeared to be prepared for this and responded, “chanting slogans or changing lives”.

While in Brighton, we were joined by the Shadow Culture Secretary, Jo Stevens, for a tour of the new Brighton community hub which is currently under construction as well as the local Middle Street Synagogue.

Unfortunately, the conference saw the passing of a one-sided and problematic anti-Israel motion. However, in a sign of the change in leadership in the Party, the motion was immediately rejected by Lisa Nandy, the Shadow Foreign Secretary.

Labour Friends of Israel finished off the conference by bringing back their reception. The event saw a full crowd addressed by Lisa Nandy and a video message from Starmer. The impressive turnout from senior party members is seen as yet another sign of the improvement in the Party following the issues of the previous leadership.

Liberal Democrats

Conference season was kicked off by the Liberal Democrats holding an online conference for a second year in a row. The party passed a comprehensive motion on Israel which clearly attempted to be even-handed. The motion will see the Party support the International Peace Fund, further normalisation deals with Israel and increased trade. It also condemned the Palestinian Authority and Hamas for their violations of human rights. Less positive was the inclusion of a boycott policy which was added into the motion via an amendment. The Party’s Foreign Affairs Spokesperson wrote about why she does not consider this policy to be BDS.

Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel hosted the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister for their annual fringe event. The group has been working hard to foster ties between the Party and their Israeli counterpart, Yesh Atid.

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2021 Local and Devolved Election Results

Summary

  • Voters in England, Scotland and Wales went to the polls last week for local and devolved elections.
  • Following the results, the Conservatives can claim victory in England after gaining 13 councils. The party also achieved their objective of holding the mayoralties in Tees Valley and the West Midlands.
  • The Conservatives performed particularly well in the North and parts of the Midlands but did lose some seats in previous strongholds in parts of the South.
  • The tone of the election results was set on Friday morning following the Conservatives taking the Hartlepool parliamentary constituency from Labour in a by-election.
  • Labour performed well in some areas of the South and took the West of England, and Cambridgeshire & Peterborough mayoralties from the Conservatives.
  • The SNP fell short of an overall majority in Scotland but there will be a majority of pro-independence MSPs. Nicola Sturgeon will remain First Minister with a minority administration and has said she will call a referendum on Scottish independence.
  • Welsh Labour tied their record high 30 seats in the Welsh Senedd which is one seat short of an overall majority. The Conservatives overtook Plaid Cymru to come second with 16 seats.

Mayoral Contests

London

 

2021 London Mayoral Election Results

Candidate

Party

First Round

Second Round

Sadiq Khan

Labour

40.0%

-4.2

55.2%

-1.6

Shaun Bailey

Conservative

35.3%

+0.3

44.8%

+1.6

Sian Berry

Green

7.8%

+2.0

 

 

Luisa Porritt

Liberal Democrats

4.4%

-0.2

 

 

 

  • Sadiq Khan (Labour) was elected in the second round beating Shaun Bailey (Conservative).
  • Khan’s first round vote was down 4.2% on his 2016 victory. This was likely due to a significant number of voters choosing to give their first preference to one of the many minor parties and independents running.
  • Bailey exceeded the expectations of many who had predicted him to do worse that Zac Goldsmith in 2016. Instead, he matched the first round share of the vote and slightly closed the gap in the second round.
  • The Government are expected to be bringing in legislation to change the mayoral voting system to ‘first past the post’. This would mean that a Conservative candidate in the next election would only need to bridge a 4.7% gap to take the mayoralty.
  • Full results are available here.

 

Manchester

 

2021 Greater Manchester Mayoral Election Results

Candidate

Party

First Round

Second Round

Andy Burnhan

Labour

67.3%

+3.9

 

 

Laura Evans

Conservative

19.6%

-3.1

 

 

Melanie Horrocks

Green

4.4%

+2.0

 

 

Simon Lepori

Liberal Democrats

3.2%

-2.9

 

 

 

  • Andy Burnham (Labour) was re-elected in the first round with over two thirds of the vote. He won in every single ward in Greater Manchester.
  • This was one of Labour’s best results of the elections and has immediately led to suggestions that Burnham could be a challenger for the Labour leadership.

Other mayoral races

  • West Yorkshire
    • Tracy Brabin (Labour) won the inaugural contest and will be the first Mayor of West Yorkshire and the first women to be a metro mayor in the UK.
    • She received 43.1% of the first round vote and beat her Conservative challenger 60-40 in the second round.
    • She has now resigned from Parliament triggering a by-election in her Batley and Spen constituency. This constituency was not as close as Hartlepool in 2019 but will still be seen as a possibility for another gain by the Conservatives.
  • West Midlands
    • Andy Street (Conservative) was re-elected as Mayor. He received 49% of the first round vote share which is up 7 points from 2017. Labour had hoped to take the mayoralty but their vote share marginally fell.
  • Tees Valley
    • This was one of the most significant Conservative wins on the night apart from the Hartlepool (which is in the Tees Valley) by-election. Ben Houchen (Conservative) was re-elected with 72.8% of the first round vote. He received 39.5% in his 2017 shock victory.
    • Houchen’s win in 2017 was seen as one of the first Conservative gains in parts of the country which would later give the Conservatives a majority in 2019.
  • Liverpool and Liverpool City Region
    • Liverpool has two elected mayors; one for the city council and one who covers the wider regional combined authority.
    • Steve Rotherham (Labour) was re-elected with 58.3% of the first round vote. This is marginally down from 2017 but still shows the area to be relatively safe for Labour.
    • Joanne Anderson (Labour) was elected Mayor of the Liverpool City Council. However, Labour lost over 20% of the first round vote share and an independent candidate received 22% of the vote to force a second round. This was due to the political fallout of the previous Mayor’s, Joe Anderson (no relation), arrest.
  • West of England
    • Labour took the West of England Mayoralty from the Conservatives who had narrowly won it in 2017. Although the Conservatives actually increased their first round vote share, Labour gained even more and eventually took a comfortable 60-40 win in the second round.
  • Cambridgeshire and Peterborough
    • Another gain for Labour after beating the Conservative incumbent.
    • James Palmer (Conservative) actually increased his first round share of the vote and beat Nik Johnson (Labour) 40.5%-32.8% in this round. However, Labour picked up most of the transfers to win the second round with 51.3% to 48.7%.
    • The Conservatives would of won this race under the Government’s plans to change the voting system in mayoral elections.
  • Other races
    • The Labour incumbent in Salford received almost 60% of the first round vote to defeat Rabbi Arnie Saunders (Conservative).
    • Labour held the mayoralties in Bristol, Doncaster and North Tynseside.

London Assembly

2021 London Assembly Election Results

Party

Constiuency Seats

List Seats

Total Seats

Labour

9 (-)

2 (-1)

11 (-1)

Conservative

5 (-)

4 (+1)

9 (+1)

Green

0 (-)

3 (+1)

3 (+1)

Liberal Democrats

0 (-)

2 (+1)

2 (+1)

 

  • Labour lost a seat on the London Assembly with the Conservatives, Greens and Liberal Democrats each picking up a seat.
  • All constituencies were held by the incumbent party.
  • The Conservatives held Havering and Redbridge with an increased majority despite it being targeted by Labour.
  • Anne Clarke (Labour) won Barnet and Camden with the vote share down 2% on 2016.
  • Labour came closest to a gain in West Central where the Conservative majority fell by over 12,000 votes to just 2,225.
  • Labour lost a list seat due to losing 2% of the vote share on the London-wide ballot.
  • Two Jewish Assembly members were elected:
    • Leonie Cooper (Labour), Merton & Wandsworth
    • Zack Polanski (Green), London-wide

Council Elections

  • The Conservatives enjoyed success in council elections gaining control of 13 councils while Labour lost control of 8.
  • Many of these gains came in northern councils where the these seats were last competed in 2016 when there was a significant pre-referendum vote share for UKIP. The Conservatives benefitted from many of these voters switching to them.
  • The Conservatives will have some concern after losing some seats in parts of the South. While the party is winning in some areas for the first time, it will have to pay attention to make sure it holds on to the areas which it has held for many years.
  • The councils with the largest Jewish populations did not switch control. The Liberal Democrats took control of St Albans which was previously under no overall control.
  • The Conservatives held the by-election in the Edgware ward of Barnet with 63% of the vote.
  • Labour gained the Sedgley seat in Bury from the Conservatives. 33.8% of residents were Jewish in this ward according to the 2011 Census. There was a 10% swing from Conservatives to Labour in the seat. The Conservatives held Pilkington Park while Labour held St Mary’s and Unsworth.
  • In Hertfordshire, Labour took both Borehamwood divisions from the Conservatives. Laurence Brass (Liberal Democrats) took the Bushey North division from the Conservative incumbent. Brass is the former treasurer of the Board of Deputies.
  • Labour gained the seat on Hertsmere Council in the Borehamwood Kenilworth by-election.
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The role of a trustee

The role of a trustee has never been more important. As with every industry, the not for profit sector has been hit hard by Covid-19, with organisations across the UK facing similar struggles to one another whilst the dependence of their services are at an all-time high. These challenges mean that the importance of trustees to effectively fulfil their duties has never been more crucial.

According to the Essential Duties of a Trustee, the role of a trustee is to:

  • Ensure your charity is carrying out its purposes for the public benefit
  • Comply with your charity’s governing document and the law
  • Act in your charity’s best interests
  • Manage your charity’s resources responsibly
  • Act with reasonable care and skill
  • Ensure your charity is accountable

There is an incredible amount of helpful links and guidelines available online, some of which are listed below:

Charity Commission – 15 Questions Trustees’ Should Ask

Charity Commission – Charity purpose and rules

Charity Commission – Making decisions at your charity

Charity Commission – Managing charity finances

Charity Commission – Managing conflicts of interest

Charity Commission – The Essential Trustee, What You Need to Know, What You Need To Do

Charity Digital Code – Download Here

Charity Governance Code – Download Here

Directory for Social Change – Seven Top Tips for a Well-Functioning Board

Fundraising Regulator – Fundraising Key Principles Guidance

Fundraising Regulator – Trustee Responsibilities

Getting on Board – How to become a trustee (guide)

NCVO – Governance Wheel (membership required)

NCVO – Improving Organisation Resilience; What Trustees Need to Consider (video)

NCVO – Individual Trustee Performance Review (membership required)

Reach Volunteering – The Need For a Digital Trustee

Reach Volunteering – Trustees’ Legal Responsibilities and Liabilities

To learn more about the work we do for Trustees, including information about our upcoming events, please visit Leads website (a division of the Jewish leadership Council).

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Keeping us all safe throughout Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah

As we have sadly said too many times this year, our 2020 Chaggim will be like no other we have experienced. This is also true for Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah this weekend.

The rates of COVID-19 infection have dramatically increased in recent weeks all around the country and especially in areas of high Jewish population. We must all play our part and follow guidance which is written to keep us all safe.

We have a duty as citizens to protect our neighbours and obligations as Jews to protect life (Pikuach Nefesh).

Our festivals, celebrations or times of reflection will come again next year when we can hopefully celebrate fully with family and friends.

Our community has suffered since the beginning of the pandemic. We have lost too many. Only by following the rules will we avoid further avoidable sorrow and grief.

I urge all members of our community to strictly observe the laws and guidelines this Chag to keep us all safe.

Chag Sameach,

Jonathan

 

Jonathan Goldstein

Chair, Jewish Leadership Council

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Yom Hashoah 2020

Yom Hashoah, the Jewish day for commemorating the Holocaust, begins on the evening of Monday 20th April with this year also marking 75 years since the liberation of Bergen Belson. As with all other events, the current situation means that the planned national commemoration is no longer able to take place as intended. However, you can still remember by joining the online commemoration.

Monday 20th April: Online National Commemoration
19.30-20.45

On Monday evening you can join the national commemoration here.

As part of the ceremony, you are invited to light a yellow candle in memory of a Holocaust victim. You can find out where to pick up a candle here.

This year there will also be no March of the Living. However, through the The March of the Living Virtual Plaque Project, you can still join the tradition of placing messages on the tracks at Auschwitz. Create your own plaque here.

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LGBT History Month: Celebrating all who work with the Jewish community and for equality

Celebrating all who work with the Jewish community and for equality


Each February in the UK marks LGBT History Month. This month is a way for all people to celebrate the contribution of LGBT people to the UK, acknowledge the fight for equality and promote the key tenets of inclusion and diversity & the benefits to the public.

At the JLC we wanted to find a way to embrace this, to profile the people and projects within our member organisations that are working towards LGBT equality and advancing inclusion. When many within our community have experienced concerns about growing prejudice targeting Jewish people, this month offers an opportunity to focus on a positive part we can all play in protecting and providing for the diverse people within our community.

We have reached out to all our members and are collating responses; we wanted to hear about the different projects and the amazing people that are making a difference. Each project or person plays a vital role in helping to shape the future of LGBT inclusion within the UK Jewish Community, and it is a pleasure to be a part of highlighting that to the rest of the community.

Over the past few years, the Jewish Community of the UK has been through a lot, there has been more focus on us in the media, in politics and on our streets and we have been resilient and loud in our response to calling out antisemitism wherever it has taken a hold. Our members have been at the forefront of this as well as running a myriad of other projects, including positive ones like the ones we are highlighting here.

Some of those highlighted have been involved in improving inclusion in their places of work including with training from Keshet UK. Some feature the dedicated professionals and volunteers who are contributing to religious life, community services and enriching Jewish culture. Some showcase the broader benefits to organisations and communities of harnessing the rich diversity of identities and talents of those who bring their full selves to their work. ALL the people and projects demonstrate the solidarity, strength and joy that come from fighting for equality and embracing diversity.

We are so proud that our member organisations cover a broad range of expertise and that they reflect such a large proportion of the UK Jewish Population. We hope that in highlighting these projects, everyone can feel a little more proud of our community.

 

 

   

 

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Playing With Fire

Rachel_Creeger_Lights.jpgI’ve always been a fan of Chanukah, I mean - 8 days of doughnuts, what’s not to like? But growing up, there was one aspect that excited me the most.  

For some, it’s the thrill of presents, whether 8 small or 1 large. I remember my friends and siblings using the Argos catalogue as some kind of mystical advent calendar, leaving it in obvious places with relevant page corners turned down in hopes of receiving the latest fad. 

For others, it’s the joy of candle lighting, the chance to play with fire in a parentally sanctioned way. Show me the child who doesn’t enjoy turning the candle just that bit too long when trying to drip the wax into the holder for added safety...

And those arguments about what exactly constitutes a latke? Just potato? Potato and egg? Onion or not? Or most controversial of all, my grandmother’s matzo meal batter with neither potato or onion, served with sugar and cinnamon after candle lighting? Readers, I am imagining your horrified faces at that suggestion, even my own husband is probably forcing a smile at seeing me in print whilst screaming inside “BUT THOSE ARE BUBBELAS! FOR PESACH!!!” (Trust me, matzo meal latkes rock. Worth every calorie).

But I’m a showbiz luvvie, so above the smell of the grease and the roar of the fryer, it was all about the Chanukah concerts. Whether in the synagogue hall, school or community centre, these events were the highlight of my year. Even Purim couldn’t hold a candle to them. Heading out in your costume on a dark wintry night seemed like the height of glamour. The building would be decorated, the Ladies Guild / PTA / Volunteers would have put out tables of treats, there would be games and activities - dreidel spinning for the kids, roulette for the adults (same same, but different), eating doughnuts without licking your lips (oh no! I’ll have to try again!) And before that, we would get to perform.

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Simon Johnson: Tackling Racism

Over the Summer, and since June 2019, I have spent a fair amount of time with leaders of Jewish communities and senior representatives of Jewish communal organisations from around the world.

There had been one topic that has been at the forefront of their mind- antisemitism.  And this global focus amongst jewish communal leaders on the topic is leading to a slight policy difference with us in the UK; which is ironic, since the high profile focus on anti-Jewish racism in the Labour Party here in the UK is one of the factors that is cited for an increasingly hard line approach on the issue coming out of the United States community and Israel.

Malcolm Hoenlein, the outgoing Executive Vice President of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations,  made a speech at a gathering of jewish communal leaders in Israel in June in which he described there being a “global war against the Jews”. For him, from his vantage point, the stakes were that high. Of course, he is able to take a much more global view of the threats around the world than we do in the UK, looking parochially at our own issues. But even we, as leaders of Jewish communal organisations in the UK, with all the threats that we are familiar with- including record numbers of reported antisemitic incidents and our main Opposition Party under investigation by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission- would not describe what we face in the UK in such bellicose terms. Perhaps it is our typical English reserve and stiff upper lip attitude, but we have sought frequently not to use alarmist language in confronting the challenges that we face.

The United States Government has begun to make policy interventions in this area. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has stated that it is US Government policy than anti-Zionism is the same as antisemitism.

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Tackling loneliness is a community priority

This article first appeared in the Jewish News on 3rd May 2019.

JLC Director of Policy & Public Affairs Claudia Mendoza writes:

Public attitudes and awareness towards mental health have changed significantly over the years. This is in no small part due to the fact that there has been a sea change in the way mental health is addressed. From government to charities to celebrities drawing attention to the issue, the taboo is slowly being eroded. This is certainly true in our own community, where more people are coming forward to talk about their own experiences.

Indeed, the Community Wellbeing Task Force – a Jewish Leadership Council led initiative – was set up to address the increasing mental health challenges facing Jewish children and young people today. The Community Wellbeing Project is a three-year pilot scheme stemming from the advice of an expert panel and commissioned research, which identified that a positive approach to mental health and wellbeing requires an educated partnership between school staff, parents/carers and students. Wellbeing Practitioners have been recruited in five pilot schools in London and Manchester to build on existing programmes, run new evidence-based initiatives and work together to share best practices. The Wellbeing Practitioner will support the school in the development and delivery of its whole school approach to emotional wellbeing.

Having a mental health condition increases your chances of being lonely but loneliness – which we tend to associate with older people – can affect anyone. Loneliness does not discriminate when it comes to age or background and even if you are surrounded by colleagues, friends and family, you can still be affected by loneliness. The effects can be as detrimental on a person’s health as that of many physical health conditions.

The wonderful thing about being part of a community is the sense of belonging and structure it provides. Indeed, Judaism as a religion offers much needed order in an increasingly chaotic world. There are practices around every life event helping us to navigate our way from cradle to grave and the laws around Shabbat provide tranquillity after a working week.

At the end of last year, the Prime Minister launched the government’s loneliness strategy which confirmed that all GPs in England will be able to refer patients experiencing loneliness to community activities and voluntary services by 2023. This is known as ‘social prescribing’ and will allow GPs to direct patients to community workers offering tailored support to help people improve their health and wellbeing, instead of defaulting to medicine.

The Jewish community has much to offer when it comes to social prescribing. Of our 35 members, many have programmes aimed at tackling loneliness. This week the JLC facilitated a meeting between Jewish Care, JAMI and Mims Davies MP in her capacity as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport and Civil Society. In this role, she has responsibility for the cross-government work on loneliness and we were able to share some of Jewish Care and JAMI’s work as well as some of the work done by our other member organisations.

The Apples and Honey nursery based at Nightingale House for example, is the UK’s first nursery to be based at a care home, allowing older people to take part in activities with children such as baking and singing. The benefits of intergenerational activities go far beyond alleviating loneliness but on this issue, it has proven a huge success.

As with all our engagement with government, we want to be seen as a community who can offer best practice and innovation on issues affecting society at large. The Jewish community faces some unique challenges but most of the challenges we face are faced by many outside the community. Being part of a community allows us to problem solve together but we want to make sure that the things which work for us can work for others too and we hope that the Minister took away some ideas.

 

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JLC Public Affairs Manager Russell Langer - April 2019 Update

Parliament has been at the forefront of the Brexit drama over the last few months. Through repeated meaningful votes, indicative votes, and backbenchers taking control of the order paper from the Government, it is becoming a weekly drama to tune in and see the results from the latest “crunch” votes.

Ultimately, a UK out of the EU will affect many aspects of UK law and change the way we can build on existing relationships with countries outside of the EU. This is why the JLC and Board of Deputies produced a joint report last year on Brexit and the Jewish Community. In the report we detail our desire for a post-EU Britain to maintain a robust sanctions and anti-terror regime, continue to protect religious freedom on Shechita, and build an even stronger relationship with Israel. Do read the report if you haven’t already.

Since our last newsletter we saw the proscription of Hizballah in its entirety by the Home Office. This ended the situation in which the UK only proscribed the organisation’s military wing and not the political wing, a distinction that many believed to be false (including the organisation itself). The proscription was approved by both Houses of Parliament without a contested vote and welcomed by communal organisations.

In March we marked the one year anniversary of the Jewish community gathering in Parliament Square to say ‘Enough is Enough’ in response to antisemitism in the Labour Party. The anniversary came shortly after a group of Labour MPs left their party to form the Independent Group (TIG) and were shortly joined by three MPs from the Conservatives. Although Brexit formed a major part of this dramatic move, the Labour antisemitism scandal was clearly a major factor – especially for Jewish MP Luciana Berger.

Former Labour MP Ian Austin also left to sit as an independent (although not with TIG) and had some strong words to say in a debate on UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Speaking in the chamber he said, “It is profoundly shocking to me that a political party that I joined as a teenager to fight racism has become embroiled in a scandal like this. It has be dealt with much more seriously. The Labour party must respond properly to the reasonable requests made by the Jewish community more than a year ago, and must boot out the racists for good.” You can watch the speech here.

A long-term concern of the Jewish community has been the biased and unfair treatment of Israel at UN bodies. This has been particularly noticeable at the UN Human Rights Council where Israel is the only nation to be subject to its own permanent item on the agenda in which it is singled out for criticism. We were delighted to see the Government honour its pledge from last year to vote against all resolutions under the permanent item and the Foreign Secretary explained why in an article for the JC.

In Foreign Office questions, the Foreign Secretary was asked about the USA’s decision to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. In response he said, “We should never recognise the annexation of territory by force,” before adding “Israel is an ally and a shining example of democracy in a part of the world where that is not common. We want Israel to be a success, and we consider it to be a great friend, but on this we do not agree.”

It is also worth noting the departure of the Middle East Minister, Alistair Burt, who resigned to rebel against the government on a Brexit related vote. Burt was well respected across the House and was known for being on top of his brief while also taking a fair approach to the issues. The Asia Minister, Mark Field, is covering the Middle East portfolio until a replacement is appointed.

Lastly, elections will soon be upon us. Local elections will be taking place on Thursday 2nd May in many councils outside of London including Hertsmere, Bury, Salford, Trafford, Stockport, Gateshead, Watford, Three Rivers, and some wards in Epping Forest, so do make sure you vote if there is an election where you live. It is also increasingly likely that there will be European elections towards the end of May so it is as vital as ever that those eligible ensure they are registered to vote.

Parliament is now in recess but with elections around the corner and Brexit extended until Halloween, the UK’s political drama looks unlikely to end any time soon.

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