This election was supposed to be about Brexit, Brexit, and more Brexit- just one year on from the extraordinary Referendum campaign in which the British electorate rejected expert advice, a sitting Prime Minister, and the Chancellor to leave the European Union. Prime Minister Theresa May is only nine months into the job after replacing David Cameron without a single vote in the conservative leadership contest. In April 2017, Mrs. May shocked the country by calling a snap general election with the belief that she needed her own personal mandate to carry out the complex Brexit negotiations.
Unfortunately, the campaign has not gone according to plan for the Conservatives. Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, has been surging in the polls by running on an openly populist, left wing agenda. Mrs. May has run a poor campaign despite having a 20-point lead in the polls at the start. A botched manifesto, including social care reforms dubbed as the ‘Dementia Tax,’ has alienated her traditional support among pensioners and those who want to leave more of their inheritance to their children. Mr. Corbyn has benefited from the law of low expectations – and by simply turning up and offering more healthcare, education, and public spending on infrastructure, he has been able to consolidate his core Labour support.
Now imagine that instead of Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren representing the left of the Democratic Party, it was Noam Chomsky. In this alternative reality, Mr. Chomsky wins the party’s presidential nomination and surrounds himself with people who think that Hamas and Hezbollah are part of the progressive left who should be included in the conversation on Middle East peace.
In the U.K., the left of the Labour Party is openly hostile to the state of Israel, and the party’s manifesto was only moderated when cabinet members from the more traditional wings of the party raised concerns. While Senator Sanders represents the extreme left in the Democratic party, he maintains support for the two-state solution and is vocally against boycotts – unlike the hard left of the Labour Party, which comprises figures at the vanguard of the delegitimization movement. The individuals who shut down pro-Israel speakers on campus are actually the people running one of the two major political parties. They are on the cusp of running the country with some polls predicting a hung Parliament- and this should concern all supporters of Israel and progressive Jews.
The danger for the Jewish Community in the United Kingdom is plainly obvious if Mr. Corbyn shocks the country by winning or having a say in the event of a hung Parliament, whereby no party has an overall majority. Mr. Corbyn has for years sided with the enemies of the Jewish community. His politics lie at the centre of the red-green alliance, and Islamist groups which engage in conspiracy theories about Jews and Israel will have a sympathetic ear at the heart of government if elected.
It must be said that during the campaign, when challenged on his connections to Hamas, Hezbollah, and the IRA, Mr. Corbyn has distanced himself from these groups. However, it remains to be seen what will be done if he’s handed power. Mr. Corbyn has spearheaded the stop-the-war and nuclear disarmament campaigns for over 30 years. A leopard rarely changes its spots.
Unsurprisingly, the Jewish Chronicle carried out a poll which showed 77% of the UK Jewish community supports the Conservatives, with only 13% for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. Among 18-35 year-olds, the level of support for Labour bounces to 23%. The community is bitterly divided with members of the Jewish Labour Movement standing in seats where Conservative MP’s have represented their large Jewish communities well in Parliament and supporting Israel.
The polls have been skewed throughout the campaign- with pollsters unsure how to factor in the turnout of youth voters who support Jeremy Corbyn in greater numbers.
If I was to predict the election results on June 8th, I would say an increased Tory Majority in the range of 50-80 with Prime Minister May returning to Downing Street. However, I would not be surprised to see a greater majority as UKIP-supporting Brexit voters entrust Mrs. May to negotiate Britain’s exit from the European Union. Mrs May’s popular mantra that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ and that she will be ‘a bloody difficult woman’ in the negotiations will appeal to non-Tory Brexit supporting voters.