Today is the first day my vote has ever mattered in a British general election. Chingford and Woodford Green has always returned a large Conservative majority. Now it’s a marginal seat.
Today is also simultaneously the most obvious voting decision I have made. But it’s also the most complex. Let me explain.
I was comfortable voting for David Cameron in 2010 and 2015. I was anguished voting for Theresa May in 2017. I am disgusted to have to vote for Boris Johnson in 2019. But that is what I must do.
I am totally aware who I am voting for. I don’t need reminding of how Boris Johnson has made racist remarks, got journalists beat up, lied repeatedly or decide to support the economic and societal upheaval that is Brexit because it would help him become Prime Minister (well done Boris, what’s next?). He is the first British Prime Minister who I find repugnant: I try to be tolerant towards leaders. I think Tony Blair and David Cameron deserve to be remembered for the good they did, not just the mistakes. Theresa May was not a successful Prime Minister but she was a model public servant, who gave her all in difficult circumstances. In addition to all that, I am against Brexit. And if any Brexit has to happen, I don’t trust the Brexiteers running the Conservative party to deliver it.
However, I still feel an unqualified moral and historical imperative to vote for him. Or rather, I feel an unqualified moral and historical imperative to ensure Jeremy Corbyn is defeated, and by a large margin.
I won’t waste your time listing Corbyn’s antisemitic history here, whether his own actions, his tolerance for others’ or his clear animosity for the Jewish community, its institutions, leaders and members – it’s been well documented. But here’s my view on why he is on a different planet of unsuitability to Boris Johnson.
First, Boris Johnson’s comments have been repugnant, but they are not ideological. They were thoughtless, arrogant and nasty. But whereas Johnson’s worldview is to do whatever it takes to get elected, Corbyn’s antisemitism is at the heart of his entire belief system. Corbyn is willing to tolerate the suspension of any progressive cause, whether women’s or LGBT rights, in order to support anti-Semites and fight against Israel. In power, I do not believe that Boris Johnson’s policies will be discriminatory against minorities. It is not in anyone’s interest to institutionally discriminate against minorities in Britain today – but Corbyn is not a pragmatist, otherwise he would have made peace with the Jewish community long ago.
Second, Electing Jeremy Corbyn is a vote to overhaul the entire system of British society. His cabinet will be led by Marxist revolutionaries. There is no guarantee that the other institutions guaranteeing democracy and tolerance would be safe with Labour in power. Boris Johnson will not overhaul the institutions of state, and therefore would be held to account (and indeed, would likely lose an election if faced with a stronger, moderate opposition). The social upheaval of a Corbyn government would dwarf any form of Brexit that Boris Johnson takes out of the oven.
Third, Jeremy Corbyn would endanger national security. Despite what he has been forced to say over Trident, he is a pacifist who believes the British army commits war crimes. Indeed, he is critical of every action the British army ever takes. If he is in power, his foreign policy will be pro-Iran, anti-USA and anti-NATO. Other countries will not share intelligence with the UK, making the country far less safe. Boris Johnson will do none of this, because his worldview does not include destroying the Western capitalist system from within.
Lastly, a common view among Corbyn supporters is that Conservative austerity has ‘murdered’ people. Unkind, unfair, unethical – maybe. But this assertion takes us on a dangerous path whereby public policy either ‘saves’ or ‘murders’ and ascribes malign intentions to politicians with which one does not agree. On the other hand, Jeremy Corbyn has been openly supportive of people who have actually committed murder against Jews and British citizens. I can tolerate a Prime Minister whose policies are misguided or wrong. I cannot tolerate a Prime Minister who supports murderers.
My vote was cast by proxy, as I am sitting thousands of miles away in Israel. But I care to write this because I am proud of being British, and I have fond memories of the life I had there. My British passport matters to me, and I am legally allowed to cast a vote as a foreign national. Yet at the very time that my thoughts and energy are focused on the UK’s future, and when my vote really does make a difference, I also feel distant. It’s partly due to the insensitive and antisemitic comments I have received on social media for sharing my views and partly the realisation that millions of my fellow Brits could vote an anti-Semite into power.
So, I’ll hand over my ballot paper to be counted among those who will claim it is another vote to get Brexit done at all costs. But what I need you to understand is that the cross is the easiest and hardest voting decision I ever made. It represents my British values, my fears, my politics, my morals and my Jewish identity. It is a vote cast not just to make my family and community safe, but the whole of Britain. I hope I never have to make such a choice again.