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Nick Clegg Speaks to the Movement for Reform Judaism

Head of the Movement, Rabbi Dr. Tony Bayfield has invited the leaders of the three major parties to address the Reform Jewish community in the run up to the General Election. The third and final response comes from Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats.

You asked me why members of the Movement for Reform Judaism should vote Liberal Democrat.  I give you the same answer I give everyone: fairness.

Fair taxes, so that the vast majority of people pay no tax on the first £10,000 they earn; a good start for all children at school, with smaller class sizes and more one-to-one tuition; a rebalanced, sustainable economy, starting with investment to create up to 100,000 green jobs; and decent, honest politics where every vote counts and people have the right to sack corrupt MPs.

Crucially, for these and all of our pledges, we know exactly how we’ll pay for them. With the public finances under enormous pressure politicians must now be honest about where they will find the money for new investment and to pay down Britain’s huge budget deficit. Vince Cable is leading the way in that debate, taking the tough choices needed to rebalance the nation’s books. Like, for example, not spending billions of taxpayers’ pounds on a like-for–like replacement for the Trident Missile system, an extraordinarily expensive Cold War relic that simply doesn’t keep us safe against modern threats.

Of course, a loathing of all forms of prejudice and racism is also central to liberalism. That is why I and my colleagues continue to show such strong support for the work of the CST, both in protecting communities and drawing attention to ongoing prejudice. I believe politicians have a duty to condemn antisemitism wherever we find it, which is why I have taken a stand, for example, against the completely unacceptable academic boycotts of Israeli academics.

Foreign policy is important here too, not least as it applies to the Middle East. I am a huge admirer of the vibrancy and vigour of Israel’s democracy. Of course I understand too that Israel is entitled to fight off the numerous threats to its own security. It seems equally obvious to me that such security will only ever be guaranteed in the long term through a negotiated resolution with the Palestinian communities and other neighbours. Sometimes that will mean pointing out things that not everyone in the Jewish community will agree with – I do not, for example, support Israel’s ongoing blockade of Gaza since further radicalisation and impoverishment of the Palestinians does not serve Israel’s own long term interests. At the same time, I do not hesitate to condemn the terrorist actions of organisations like Hamas or the hateful proclamations of Iranian politicians. Like many outsiders to the Middle East conflict, I continually hope that leadership will emerge on all sides committed to a coherent long term strategy for peace. At the moment, such leadership is woefully lacking.

I believe Israel’s long term interests are best served by the promotion of the values Liberal Democrats hold dear: civil liberties and human rights; equality of treatment for Jews and Arabs, men and women, religious and secular; and, in time, peace through compromise and that means a two-state solution.

I realise that these ideas may not be popular with all.  But I believe that the Jewish community not only in the UK, but internationally, is instinctively liberal. The Jewish community’s proud record in the South African anti-apartheid movement, in the civil liberties movement in US, and in fighting racism and fascism here in the UK is testament to that. For the very many Jews with this liberal instinct, who want a party that can finally deliver real fairness for the UK, I hope we offer a natural home.


Nick Clegg

Leader, Liberal Democrats


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