For the second time since 2016 and the third general election since 2015, British voters are streaming to the polls to decide the future of the country, “Brexit” and perhaps the Jewish community in the UK as well.
Lines have been reported throughout the country, down the blocks and up the streets with the highest turnout seen in decades according to some accounts.
Media coverage laws in the country are very strict, and as soon as the polls opened, all exit poll coverage was shut down, according to a report by The New York Times.
The first inkling of how citizens in the UK voted won’t be revealed until the close of polls at 10 pm, because lawmakers created the election law due to a belief that all voters should be making their choices based on the same available information.
However, the media laws have given rise to some interesting traditions as a result. One of them is the #dogsatpollingstations tradition. (For real.) People who have dogs, bring them with, when they go to vote (on a leash) and tie them to a fence post while they go in to cast their ballots. Their pooches keep each other company while their owners make their wishes known to the UK universe (secretly) and share the gossip when they return.
— Nick Acheson ? (@themarshtit) December 12, 2019
— Maria Farrell (@mariafarrell) December 12, 2019
And then there was this commentary, typical of many seen on Twitter:
Whippets are too pure for politics, yet Wilfred, Chase McQueen & Minnow all agree that Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is an utterly despicable sociopath who has no place in British politics. You know what we have to do… #DogsAtPollingStations pic.twitter.com/ch6aSu3E25
— Snit Esq. ?✨ (@Green128Green) December 12, 2019
This year they’ve kicked it up a notch in Britain, however — several cats were spotted, including a few packed into backpacks, and they’ve added “horses at polling stations” and even “reindeer at polling stations” and it’s not clear what else . . .
— Johnny Goldsmith (@MirrorJohnny) December 12, 2019
It’s expected that by early Friday, the essential results will be in: either Conservative Party leader Prime Minister Boris Johnson will still be welcome at Number 10 Downing, or Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn will have replaced him.
On a far more serious note, if the latter option takes place, British Jewry will be faced with some serious soul-searching.
Perhaps even while the voting was taking place, the Jews were mulling their options, in fact.
Consider this tweet by Israeli television news anchor Eylon Levy, who reported Thursday evening that a British Jewish friend related arriving to the polling station and giving his (Jewish-sounding) name. He then heard the polling clerk mutter under her breath to a colleague, “I wonder who he’ll be voting for.”
One British Jewish friend reports turning up to vote, giving his (Jewish-sounding name), then hearing polling clerk mutter under her breath to colleague, "I wonder who he'll be voting for." Aghast.
— Eylon Levy (@EylonALevy) December 12, 2019
At least 40 percent of British Jewry has said it is strongly considering emigration from the country if Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn wins the election and takes office as the next prime minister.
Corbyn is considered “the most dangerous man to British Jewry since WWII,” one who has prompted not only the country’s normally apolitical Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis to make a public statement in The Times newspaper, warning voters that Corbyn is not fit for high office, and that the “very soul of our nation is at stake.”
“Should the victims of racism be silenced by the fear of yet further vilification?” he asked in his statement, citing “unspeakable threats” against those who faced down “anti-Jewish racism.” The rabbi bluntly warned that Corbyn’s claim the party was “doing everything” possible to address antisemitism in the party’s ranks was a “mendacious fiction.” He went on to say there was a “failure of leadership” in the party. “A new poison – sanctioned from the very top – has taken root in the Labour Party,” the Chief Rabbi said.
How far is too far? Rabbi Mirvis wondered. “Would associations with those who have openly incited hatred against Jews be enough? Would support for a racist mural, depicting powerful hook-nosed Jews supposedly getting rich at the expense of the weak and downtrodden be enough? Would describing as “friends” those who endorse and even perpetrate the murder of Jews be enough? It seems not. What we do know from history is that what starts with the Jews, never ends with the Jews.”
Noting that it was not his place to tell any person how they should vote, and adding that he regretted being in the situation at all, the rabbi simply asked every person to “vote with their conscience.”
The Chief Rabbi’s statement shook some of his fellow clerics in Britain, and prompted like statements of support, writes blogger Jeffrey Levine.
One of those was the Bishop of Norwich, writing a message of solidarity with the Jewish people to the Norwich Hebrew Congregation, and likewise conveying a similar statement on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
“That the Chief Rabbi should be compelled to make such an unprecedented statement at this time ought to alert us to the deep sense of insecurity and fear felt by many British Jews. Everyone in our country is entitled to feel safe and secure. They should be able to live in accordance with their beliefs and freely express their culture and faith. As a Church, we are very conscious of our own history of antisemitism. None of us can afford to be complacent.
“Voicing words that commit to a stand against antisemitism requires a corresponding effort in visible action. I would reiterate that ‘No individual or community in our shared society should have reason to lack confidence in their belonging or security, so parties must make it an absolute priority to offer positive reassurance and avoid anything that increases the perception of fear.’ The Chief Rabbi’s statement provides all of us with the opportunity to ensure our words and actions properly reflect our commitments to mutual flourishing and inclusion, for the common good.”
“I agree with every word that he says and pledge to do whatever I can to support my Jewish sisters and brothers who live in my diocese and elsewhere.”
The Bishop added his request that his concern and assurance of his prayers be passed on to the community.
How frightening that Jeremy Corbyn could care less, nor do any of his supporters. If he manages to win this election, what impact will that have on the US national elections in 2020?