UK could have its first Jewish metro mayor
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UK could have its first Jewish metro mayor

Oliver Coppard, who stood down as a Labour candidate in 2018 in protest of Jeremy Corbyn's failures on antisemitism, is running to represent South Yorkshire

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Oliver Coppard
Oliver Coppard

The UK could be on the brink of having its first ever Jewish Metro Mayor.

Oliver Coppard – who famously stood down in 2018 from standing in the Sheffield Hallam seat in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to tackle antisemitism – has been selected as the party’s candidate for the forthcoming South Yorkshire mayoral contest.

The Jewish Labour Movement member received a 57 per cent share of the votes in the second round of last week’s selection contest, which took place after incumbent Metro Mayor Dan Jarvis took the decision not to stand for re-election.

Stressing the importance of his Jewish background, Coppard told Jewish News that if elected in May he wished to become known as “a mayor who works hard and delivers  for all the people of South Yorkshire.”

He also promised to be “the most transparent and accountable mayor in the country”, with a public-led scrutiny panel, no second jobs, and with the staging of regular Mayor’s Question Times across the region.

Growing up in Sheffield in a non-orthodox family, Coppard said he turns to local United Synagogue  Rabbi Yonosan Golomb on occasions for constructive talks.

He also enrolled in a series of classes on Judaism, which he took at Alyth Synagogue in Golders Green, during visits to London.
“I wanted to reconnect, to learn a bit more – I am really interested.”

Coppard also reiterates that he is “standing to be the mayor of South Yorkshire, not the Jewish mayor of South Yorkshire.”

He adds:”“Our campaign has been built around a simple but urgent hope; that together we can rebuild the pride, purpose and prosperity of South Yorkshire.

“Every vote cast in support of my selection was a silent instruction to pursue that ambition, to reclaim a more optimistic and hopeful future for everybody that lives here.

Coppard first attracted national media coverage over his political campaigning skills when he stood in the Sheffield Hallam seat in 2015, slashing Nick Clegg’s majority by 13,000, and paving the way for Labour to win the seat at the next election.

When the Labour MP Jared O’Mara then quit the seat in controversial circumstances, Coppard was widely expected to stand as candidate there again.

But in a high-profile intervention he announced he would not be standing again over what he said was Labour’s “intolerance” towards Jewish people under then leader Jeremy Corbyn.

In an interview in 2018 he said:”I should have spoken out before now. I should have made it more widely known that I was dismayed by the decision not to adopt the full IHRA definition, by the online abuse and our failure as a Party to take a zero-tolerance approach to antisemitism.

“More than anything I should have said that I am frightened by the growing intolerance and factionalism of our movement.”
Detailing how he had lost several members of his family in the Holocaust, Coppard also warned:”“When the concerns of mainstream Jewish people and groups are dismissed as overblown smears, then our commitment to antisemitism will rightly remain in question.”

Coppard told Jewish News:”I’d like to think I would have said the things I did (about Labour under Corbyn) even if I wasn’t Jewish.

“We all had a responsibility to stand up – it just so happens I was Jewish and said those things. But actually, we all had responsibility to stand up against it. That’s the point really, the Labour Party should have stood up against that.”

Now comfortable to stand again for Labour under new leader Sir Keir Starmer, Coppard adds he wants to “bring a new approach to politics – particularly with what’s going on in Westminster right now.

“In South Yorkshire, we notionally what some people call the Red Wall. In Labour we are facing a bunch of communities who have lost trust, lost faith and lost interest in what we were offering.

“What I trying to say, is not ‘let’s go back to 1997’ – but let’s try and do politics in a different way.”

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