Former London mayor Ken Livingstone said Tuesday that Britain’s Jewish community has increasingly supported Conservative candidates as it has gotten richer.
“If we were talking 50 years ago, the Roman Catholic community, the Irish community in Britain, the Jewish community was solidly Labor,” Livingstone told BBC’s Newsnight while addressing the role of ethnic minorities in UK politics. “Still the Irish Catholic community is pretty solidly Labor because it is not terribly rich.
“As the Jewish community got richer, it moved over to voting for Mrs. [Margaret] Thatcher as they did in Finchley,” he said, referring to one of London’s northern districts with a large Jewish community.
“The defining issue is not your color or your religion,” Livingstone said. “It’s your level of income. People vote according to their income.”
Livingstone’s comments were dismissed by Adrian Cohen, who is the chairman of London’s Jewish forum. According to the Telegraph, Cohen said “politicians shouldn’t write off parts of the electorate based on crude assumptions about their perceived relative affluence.
“”Many Jews are not rich, indeed many struggle to make ends meet. In any event there are many factors which influence how a person chooses to vote and one shouldn’t refer to Jewish Londoners as if they were homogeneous,” he said.
Livingstone has made similar comments in the past. In 2012 during the London mayoral campaign he allegedly said Jews wouldn’t vote for the Labor Party because they were rich.
In March of that year, prominent Labor-supporting Jewish Londoners complained to party leader Ed Miliband about Livingstone.
Livingstone, they wrote, had stated in a meeting with Jewish leaders that “he did not expect the Jewish community to vote Labor as votes for the left are inversely proportional to wealth levels, and suggested that as the Jewish community is rich we simply wouldn’t vote for him.”
Livingstone has since said the letter was a “tissue of lies” and that his comments had been misunderstood.
The former mayor has proved unpopular with London’s Jewish community. He has been accused of both anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. He has repeatedly bashed Israel and its policies. During the 2012 campaign many claimed his strategy was to win Muslim votes by alienating the Jews.