Election Constituency Preview: Finchley and Golders Green

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Election Constituency Preview: Finchley and Golders Green

With its high proportion of Jewish voters, the result of voting in the North London constituency will provide a fascinating snapshot of communal political affiliation on July 4

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Luciana Berger, Ross Houston and Mike Freer at the Finchley and Golders Green general election count in 2019
Luciana Berger, Ross Houston and Mike Freer at the Finchley and Golders Green general election count in 2019

The result of voting in the Finchley and Golders Green constituency might not actually impact on the outcome of the forthcoming general election.

But it will go some way to showing the community’s response to the way our main political parties have reacted to the most testing of times for Anglo-Jewry.

The constituency has a higher proportion of Jewish voters than anywhere else in Britain – around 20 per cent – and amongst them are some of the most politically engaged voices in the entire community.

But more importantly, the result in the north London seat on July 4, will also provide a litmus test on the response from the community to both Rishi Sunak, Keir Starmer and indeed Ed Davy’s claim to have our best interests at heart.

The quality of the candidates standing for election will obviously also be key. In a seat where Mike Freer had been MP since 2010, and who stood down in the face of awful threats to his life, Alex Deane is standing for the Conservatives.

Sarah Sackman visits Akiva School in Finchley with Jonathan Reynolds, Labour’s shadow business secretary

For Labour local barrister Sarah Sackman, who ran Freer a close second in 2015, stands again, while the Liberal Democrats have Sarah Hoyle standing. From the minor parties Steve Parsons stands for the Greens, Mez Roth for the Workers Party and Reform UK field Timothy McGeever.

In 2019, it was the Lib Dems who mounted the main challenge to Freer, after former Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger stood for the party as a result of her response to the antisemitism scandal under Jeremy Corbyn.

Freer held on to the seat with a 6000 majority over Berger, although the combined Lib Dem and Labour vote would have easily eclipsed the Tory victor.

Alex Deane, left, with former minister Robert Jenrick in Finchley and Golders Green

Ahead of the 2024 election, unless the Lib Dems dramatically increase their campaigning in the seat, it feels like a straight fight this time between Deane and Sackman.

“The great thing about this election is that British Jews have a choice,” opines Sackman.

“Alex will present his credentials, but I think people can see that I’m someone who is committed to public service, and as far as the Jewish community is concerned, standing up and being a strong voice for our community.”

Deane said that while he did not know Freer particularly well before he decided to stand, the worrying circumstances behind the MP’s decision to stand down left him convinced “the call had come to serve.”

While not Jewish himself, Deane stresses he is a strong Zionist, adding: “I think there is something powerful about someone who is not Jewish being a voice for that community.

“Not just Mike, there’s Eric Pickles, there are people who have stood up over the years.”

Speaking to Jewish News, both Sackman and Deane were keen to stress that they both stand for election as strong believers in democracy, and it was notable that the Labour candidate has been just as outspoken in condemning the threats and intimidation directed at Freer over several years.

But there are significant political differences between the pair.

“I think my experience does help me,” says Sackman, who grew up attending Norrice Lea synagogue, and who is now a New North London regular.

“I’m local and qualified both as a community campaigner and as a lawyer, and I think I am the best qualified person to represent all the diverse communities in Golders Green.”

Lib Dem candidate Sarah Hoyle

She adds that as a vice-chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, she has been “proud” to have witness the change that has engulfed Labour under Keir Starmer, in terms of the fight against antisemitism, and the “historic” victory by her party in Barnet at the 2020 local elections.

Deane, previously a director of the anti-state Big Brother Watch and the executive director of the pro-Brexit Grassroots Out group, describes his political stance as more a “free market, lower tax person than not just Mike, but than the prime minister.”

He adds:”That’s fine, there’ still room for me in the Tory Party. Think about the issues that matter in our patch though, Mike and I are as one on antisemitism, crime and anti-social behaviour…”

The Tory candidate has also been unafraid to pitch himself as someone standing up for Jews in the climate of fear that has emerged since the October 7th terror attacks, but this has not stopped him making claims that Labour meanwhile is more on the side of those who take part in pro-Palestine marches.

Sackman is keen to come across as a candidate keener to “build bridges” for the community, rather than stoke division further, and of her close links to Keir Starmer, Rachel Reeves and David Lammy.

In the event of a predicted overall win for Starmer’s party on July 4, she adds:”I think people in Finchley and Golders Green have got a choice. You can have a Conservative backbencher shouting in the wind, or they can have me picking up the phone to Keir, to Wes, to Rachel, to David, saying this is how the community is feeling on a certain issue.”

Deane disagrees, and suggests he will always be someone who makes himself heard, whether Sunak or Starmer are elected into No.10 next month.

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