London by-elections moved from traditional Thursday slot to avoid Sukkot clash

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London by-elections moved from traditional Thursday slot to avoid Sukkot clash

In the heavily Jewish South Tottenham ward Charedi Labour candidate Mordeche Grosskopf triumphed in Wednesday's poll - moved from the traditional Thursday slot to avoid clashing with one of the most significant days of Sukkot

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

South Tottenham by-election held on Wednesday
South Tottenham by-election held on Wednesday

Two by-elections in north London have been moved from the traditional scheduling on a Thursday to avoid clashing with one of the most significant days in the Sukkot Jewish festival.

In a rare move in this country, by-elections in Haringey’s South Tottenham and White Hart Lane wards took place on Wednesday October 4th instead, so as not to inconvenience the sizeable local Charedi population.

This Thursday evening is when observant Jews participate in synagogue services around Hoshana Rabbah, the seventh day of Sukkot, in which seven circuits are made by the worshippers with their lulav and etrog, and the congregation recites Hoshanot.

The South Tottenham ward includes a population that is around 25  per cent Charedi, and both Labour and Conservative candidates taking part in this week’s poll were also Strictly Orthodox.

Had the by-election gone ahead on Thursday, religious candidates would have been in shul before the polls closed, and they not have been able to attend the count on Yom Tov.

While the White Hart Lane ward did not have the same issues impacting on the community, it was agreed that both by-elections in the borough should take place on the same day for logistical reasons.

Wednesday’s local elections saw victories for Labour candidates in both Haringey wards.

In South Tottenham, Charedi Labour candidate Mordeche Grosskopf triumphed with a commanding majority over the Tory, Green and Lib Dem representatives, polling more than the combined vote of the trio.

Grosskopf, who picked over 68.2 percent of the vote had used a series of campaign posters printed with Hebrew and Yiddish to get his message across to Jewish voters.

In his victory speech on Wednesday night he praised local MP and Labour shadow foreign secretary David Lammy for his support, and pledged to “work hard for the entire community regardless of their background.”

David Lammy joins South Tottenham candidate Mordeche Grosskop and campaigners

Grosskopf said he had already compiled a list of local residents’ concerns and said he would make it a “top priority” to now deal with them.

In the nearby White Hart Lane ward Labour’s Liam Carroll also held on to the seat for his party.

Since 1931, every general election has been held on a Thursday although there is no official reason for them taking place that day.

As well as general elections, by-elections have by and large been held on Thursdays since 1965. One notable exception to this was when the Scottish town of Hamilton held a by-election on a Wednesday so as not to interfere with the kick off of the 1978 World Cup in Argentina the next day.

It is claimed that Thursdays were seen as the idea polling day because historically  this was a traditional market day, and  it was seen as being suitable due to people being able to pop in to their local polling station on the way into town.

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