Thursday, 22 April 2010

Chops, changes, councillor controversies...

This morning Matthew Coggins, leader of Hackney's Conservative group, expressed a little frustration at Blood and Property's "obsession" with the ultra-orthodox Jewish community. It was much the same as the frustration expressed by Conservative mayoral candidate, Andrew Boff, when he answered Blood and Property's 'distasteful' questions two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Ian Sharer, leader of Hackney's Lib Dems, who is an ultra-orthodox Jew, expressed no such frustration.

Luckily both Sharer and Coggins were happy to discuss the changes that have taken place in their candidate line-ups.

And the most interesting changes appear to be those affecting the ultra-orthodox Jewish community.

The fates of two are of particular interest. Joseph Stauber, who was a Lib Dem councillor in Cazenove ward from 2002 until he defected to Labour in 2008, will not be standing again. He was the only ultra-orthodox Labour councillor in Hackney.

And Simon Tesler, former ultra-orthodox Jewish Conservative councillor for Lordship, was de-selected. He has decided to stand as an independent in the ward.

Tesler was one of six ultra-orthodox Jewish councillors in the Conservative Group. But he has been replaced by Alexander Ellis, who was the Conservative candidate for the GLA in 2008.

The swapping of Tesler for Ellis is not totally straight forward. The Conservative decision to drop Tesler might have been made more painful because the party also took on a new ultra-orthodox Jewish councillor to replace a departing Jacob Landau.

Via a chain of replacements, Landau's departure made an opening for Benzion Tapier. This could be seen as a double snub for Tesler and might explain his decision to stand as an independent.

Tesler could still argue that he isn't splitting the "Jewish vote" (an interesting article) by standing because he has not been replaced by an ultra-orthodox Jewish councillor. He is simply relying on those who supported him before. A Labour source said that this rift in the Conservative Party could make the ward an interesting one to watch.

Matthew Coggins, said that Tesler's position had disproved the theory that ulta-orthodox Jewish councillors don't stand against each other.

But according to Lib Dem leader Ian Sharer, this practice is very much still the norm.

Sharer has always been open about the tendency of ultra-orthodox Jews not to stand against each other in elections. In January he told Blood and Property: "It is not a scriptural thing. The basic thing is that the Jewish community votes for Jewish councillors. They don't care which party you're in. They support you if you're Jewish."

He said that having more than one Jewish candidate in an election made it "confusing" and that these conflicts could get "nasty and a bit silly". He said that tactical voting of this kind took place in various forms in all politics.

He said that Stauber wasn't standing again in Cazenove because they were friends and didn't want to stand against each other.

But he made no bones about the fact that he and Abraham Jacobson were the only two ultra-orthodox Jewish councillors standing in the ward and that they are both Lib Dems because Jewish people don't like standing against each other.

Even so, why hasn't Stauber, the Labour party's only ultra-orthodox Jewish Councillor, managed to find another seat? He certainly tried to find one. What could have stopped him standing for Labour in Stamford Hill?

A Labour source said that Stauber "has taken it very well and still wants to be involved" adding that he hoped that it would be possible to find a way for him back onto the council. He also said that the Labour Party had always been keen to have a representative from the ultra orthodox Jewish community.

Another interesting fact is that Ian Sharer's wife, Bella Sharer, is standing in Brownswood. In doing so (and she's stood in elections before) she will (I've been told) be breaking new ground for women in the ultra-orthodox Jewish community. According to her husband, the seat she is contesting this time is much more winnable.

Nominations for council elections closed on April 8. Here's the full list of candidates broken down into wards.

Changes in the Labour Party are more numerous but don't seem to be controversial. You can find the Labour ward candidates here.

LIB DEM buzz.

Ian Sharer, Matthew Coggins and the Labour Party source, were all aware that there has been a significant rise in Lib Dem support in the borough. Sharer didn't want to put a figure on the change but simply said he'd never seen anything like it.

He said he didn't quite believe that people who had voted Labour for twenty years would be able to make the change.

Labour said that the Lib Dem threat could prove a problem in wards where the Greens are already weak but in wards where Greens are strong, the shift to the Lib Dems could help Labour.

Apologies for not mentioning anything about Green candidates, I didn't have time. Interesting piece on Luke's Blog about recycling of Green councillors.

I'm also hoping to write up the hustings from last night at Hackney Community college - most interesting moment was the reaction to Meg Hillier's comment along the lines of: "If you went to Lithuania would you expect the Lithuanians to pay for you to learn their language?"

1 comment:

  1. Hey - just saw Luke's piece. Basically, our stance is that we want to provide the opportunity for everyone in London to vote Green in all elections. We've managed it (for the first time ever) in the General Election this time, with a full London slate of 73 candidates - but in the local elections, we sometimes need to double up to give the most people an opportunity to vote Green. It's just the reality of being a smaller party with a smaller activist base.