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Parties Wooing Jewish Voters As British Election Approaches

April 3, 1992
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With Tories and Laborites racing neck-and-neck toward their April 9 election showdown, and the third-party Liberal Democrats in hot pursuit, Britain’s 200,000 Jewish voters are being ardently wooed, although none of the parties will admit it.

A spokesman at the Conservatives’ Central Office insisted this week that the party is not specifically targeting Jews.

Labor, which has an ethnic minorities unit, claimed its energies are directed at wider targets.

The Liberal Democrats said that as a matter of policy, they do not target any particular community.

But the disclaimers were contradicted by the facts.

In districts where the Jewish vote could make a difference, candidates were busy this week meeting rabbis, addressing synagogue members and vowing undying affection for Israel.

In Westminster North, incumbent Tory Member of Parliament Sir John Wheeler searched out homes with a mezuzah on the doorpost to deposit electioneering leaflets announcing that “John Wheeler says stop anti-Semitism.”

His main opponent, Labor’s Jennifer Edwards, said she is not targeting Jews so directly but agreed their vote could not be ignored.


Edwards said she had taken care to reply to questionnaires sent out by Jewish organizations, had met with Jewish pensioners and took careful note of advice from Labor headquarters about how to deal with such subjects as Israel and shechitah, or kosher slaughter.

But Phil Wardle, manager of Liberal Democrat Justin Wigoder, the only Jewish candidate in the district, admitted the community is an obvious target.

His party lacks the resources to mount a special drive, Wardle said. But it concentrated on the ward where Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks lives, where it has its biggest support.

Hertsmere in Hertfordshire, the constituency with the fastest-growing Jewish population, is the scene of an intense courtship by politicians of all parties.

Labor candidate David Souter said he “enjoyed meeting the leadership of the United Synagogue” in the area, and he was booked to attend a public meeting arranged by the local Reform congregation.

Conservative James Clappison said he is “very conscious” of the growing Jewish community he hopes to inherit from retiring Cecil Parkinson.

His campaign manager, Peggy Lambourne, ignored the Conservatives’ diffidence on the subject, “This is the first time we have specifically geared our campaign to take account of the Jewish electorate, which in this area is about 10 percent,” she said.

“We are careful not to canvass in Jewish areas on Friday night or Saturday,” Lambourne added.

Zerbanoo Gifford, the Liberal Democrat running in the district, complained that her campaign has been damaged by false rumors that she supports the Palestine Liberation Organization.

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