OPINION: What was not said during Daniel’s appointment was significant

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OPINION: What was not said during Daniel’s appointment was significant

As a Charedi Jew becomes Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, how lucky we are that he is judged on merit, writes Vivian Wineman.

Credit: ParliamentUK
Credit: ParliamentUK

We don’t read newspapers to cheer ourselves up. If it bleeds it leads but if it doesn’t, then who wants to know? It is good, therefore, to be able to write about a story that is just good news, not only for what happened, but also for what did not.

My brother in law, Daniel Greenberg CB, has just been appointed Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, a post formerly occupied by Kathryn Stone.

Daniel has worked in the House of Commons for several decades and in his own words, he fell in love with the place. He is anxious to bring out the positive side of MPs, and the work that they do as well as to hold them to proper standards .

Daniel Greenberg

Because of the nature of the appointment, it had to be ratified by a motion proposed and debated in the House of Commons.

It was, therefore possible to follow the proceedings in Hansard (the official report of all Parliamentary debates) and to watch the debate as it was screened.

Many complimentary things were said about him, such as his razor sharp legal intellect and undoubted integrity but what was not said, was also significant.

Daniel is a Charedi Jew. At least he wears the uniform, with a big black hat and tzitziot (ritual fringes) on the outside. Never once during the debate was Daniel’s religion or orthodoxy mentioned. It was just not regarded as relevant. All that was important was his character and ability to do the job.

Here he scored. Indeed, when subsequently interviewed on Newsnight he was asked whether, in the light of his experience with working in the House of Commons, he might be considered too much of an insider.

Was this really how a Charedi Jew would be perceived in the mother of Parliaments?

Vivian Wineman

His experience echoes that of Baroness Ros Altmann CBE, another deeply orthodox, though not Charedi Jew. She tells how, in her career advising at the highest levels of government on pension matters, she never had any problem with her religious observance.

She experienced nothing but tolerance and respect.

This is not to deny the existence of antisemitism and racism in this country or to gainsay the ominous rise in antisemitic incidents as reported by the CST.

We are, however, living in a country with a prime minister who is a member of a minority faith, not just a Hindu but a proud practicing Hindu, who took his oath of office on the Bhagavad Gita, the most revered of all the Hindu texts.

Whilst we should always remember that, in the words of the late Lord Sacks, antisemitism is a light sleeper, let us be thankful in the meantime that although, maybe not asleep, its impact on us is not as high as it has been in less fortunate times and countries.

As a new head of state prepares to take office we can reflect on how this this country can still be the object of envy of people in less happier lands.

  • Vivian Wineman, former President of the Board of Deputies
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