Leading Conservative MP Robert Halfon has recalled one of ex-Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir’s famous quotes as he claimed “the worst is over” with regards to the fuel shortages that have sparked a crisis at the pumps.
Speaking to Jewish News at the start of the Conservative Party’s annual conference in Manchester, the MP, who is Jewish, admitted:”As Golda Meir said ‘Pessimism is a luxury that no Jew can allow himself’.
“I think we need to apply that to fuel supplies.
Clearly it has been difficult for everyone – but it looks like the worst is over. ”
Halfon’s reassuring remarks come as the government said military drivers will be deployed to deliver fuel to petrol station forecourts from Monday.
Across much of London, Barnet and elsewhere in Hertfordshire many petrol stations are quickly running out of petrol and diesel as motorists queue for hours to fill up.
A small number of petrol stations have remained closed for over a week.
“There have been problems with supplies, the army is going to be brought in over the next few days,” the Harlow MP confirmed, as he joined his Tory colleagues in Manchester for the start of their party conference.
“It’s worth remembering there is plenty of fuel. It’s actually a tiny percentage of forecourts that don’ t have any petrol or diesel because of HGV drivers.”
In a wide-ranging interview, the former minister and current Education Select Committee chair also offered his view on Sir Keir Starmer’s attempts to transform the Labour Party – and on last Friday’s sacking by Bristol University of Professor David Miller.
Assessing Starmer’s claims, which were repeated at last week’s Brighton conference, that he is successfully tackling anti-Jewish racism within his ranks, Halfon said:”I definitely think the Labour Party has made a start to eradicating the cancer of antisemitism that sadly engulfed the party.
“But they’ve got a long way to go.
“The probelm is there are activists up and down the country that many people find uncomfortable, and who hold very uncomfortable views on Jews.
“It’s not just about what he (Starmer) says in the media, or other high-profile things like that.
“It’s about what he actually does to change Labour across the country.
“He needs to get rid of these people, the kind of people that were responsible for pushing out Louise Ellman, along with others.”
Halfon, a vice-president of the Jewish Leadership Council, was keen to stress that he believed Boris Johnson’s government had performed well since the December 2019 election – during what he described as “the worst crisis since the Second World War.”
He pointed to the response to the Covid-19 pandemic that has “overtaken the country and the whole world. ”
The former deputy chair of the Tories said:”The government has spent £400billion, introduced the furlough scheme, and now because of that we are £2.5 trillion in debt, as well as having to recover the £400 billion that was spent on looking after so many people, familes and businesses.
“It’s not just the furlough but grants to businesses and support for charities and cilvil society and for the welfare of individuals.
“So it’s going to be very tough. And I don’t think they could have done more.
“We have got one of the world’s best vaccination programmes, except for the state of Israel – something we should be proud of.”
In a clear dig at the Labour leader he added:”It’s easy to put the Captain Hindsight hat on and say that things should have been done better.
“But who knew what was going to happen?
“I still wake up every morning and can’t believe what we’ve been through.”
Halfon also praised the government’s new Foreign Secretary Liz Truss as “brilliant” following her promotion to the role in the Prime Minister’s latest cabinet reshuffle.
“She is brilliant, she is the free trade queen,” he said. “I know some work has been done with Israel – but I hope we will have some kind of credible trading relationship with the state of Israel now.”
Earlier this month thegovernment announced a consultation process over possible food labelling reforms for animal welfare reasons with thUK needing to create its own animal welfare legislation following the decision to exit the European Union.
But Halfon said he would be “gobsmacked” if the government changed any rules around kosher produce.
“We are proud of the tolerent tradition in our country and I would be amazed if anything was changed,” he reasoned.
The outspoken parliamentarian also vowed to continue to speak out in favour of faith schools as he praised the government’s record on supporting them.
“I want to protect faith schools,” he said. “I”ve questioned Ofsted in my Committee because sometimes I think they are going too far.
“They are sometimes perceived as having a secular agenda, and of being anti-faith schools. ”
Asked about Jewish News exclusive report earlier this month which showed that out of 50 local councils still to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism, 60 per cent were Tory run, he said:”I don’t care whether they are Tory, Labour or whatever.”
The MP added:” Councils and unions must adopt IHRA – there’s no excuse not to.”
Halfon then singled out the example of the National Education Union, yet to adopt the definition themselves.
“I questioned the head of the NEU when he came to my committee, ” he added. “Over 100 Jewish members have left that union. ”
Halfon has also been at the forefront of the campaign to have Bristol University’s sociology lecturer David Miller dismissed for his remarks towards Jewish students over Israel.
On Friday the university confirmed Miller had been dismissed, after launching an investigation into comments – including claims a Jewish Society was an “Israel lobby group” – back in March.
Halfon said the university eventually “gave into public pressure” and he praised the role played by parliamentarians, and the Union of Jewish Students in forcing the issue saying the later group “deserve a medal for what they did.”
He added:”In view the vice-chancellor should hang his head in shame for taking so long to do the right thing.”
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