Peter Myers Digest: In British election, Starmer’s Jewish home life becomes an issue

(1) In British election, focus shifts to Starmer’s Jewish home life; might it affect his policy on Gaza?

(2) Starmer reserves Friday nights for Shabbat dinner with his Jewish wife and their children

(3) Economist magazine backs Starmer for Britain’s next prime minister

(4) Rioting Trots burn Paris after populist National Rally party victory

(5) More than 210 candidates exit French election runoff to block far right progress

(6) Le Pen comes out against Brussels Elite’s environment policies hurting ordinary people


(1) In British election, focus shifts to Starmer’s Jewish home life; might it affect his policy on Gaza?


In particular, might it affect the Muslim vote? Do they have a right to know his Jewish committments? – Peter M.

Jewish figures criticise ‘stigmatising’ Tory attack on Starmer family time

Conservatives push out ‘final warnings’ amid backlash over targeting of Labour leader’s Friday night ‘protected time’

Ben Quinn, Peter Walker and Kiran Stacey

Wed 3 Jul 2024 04.51 AEST

Keir Starmer has accused the Conservatives of desperate tactics amid claims that Tory criticism of his defence of family time was insensitive and had antisemitic undertones.

With Rishi Sunak embarking on a marathon day of campaigning, beginning with a pre-dawn visit to a distribution centre and closing with a late-night rally, Tory ministers and aides sought to contrast these efforts with what they termed Starmer’s “part-time” approach.

As an increasingly personal election campaign neared its end, the Conservatives pushed out “final warnings” about what they said a massive Labour majority would mean for taxes, migration and other policy areas.

Downing Street chiefs believe the criticism of Starmer for saying he would maintain his current habit of trying to spend time with his wife and children after 6pm on Fridays “pretty well come what may” has resonated with voters.

However, it has sparked an angry backlash, with senior Jewish figures saying the decision to target such a culturally significant time of the week – Starmer’s wife, Victoria, comes from a Jewish family – was ill-judged and deeply unfair.

“I would have thought to anybody it’s blindingly obvious that a Friday night is quite important in some religions and faiths,” Starmer told reporters during a campaign stopover in Derbyshire.

Calling the attacks “laughably pathetic”, the Labour leader said his comments in a radio interview the day before had simply been to set out how he tried to keep Friday evenings aside for his family and would if elected prime minister, adding: “But I know very well it’s going to be really difficult to do it.”

Starmer said the aim was to create “protected time” for his children, his wife and her father. “Obviously her dad’s side of the family is Jewish, as people will appreciate, and we use that for family prayers – not every Friday, but not infrequently.

“That doesn’t mean I’ve never had to work on a Friday, of course it doesn’t. Plenty of times I haven’t been able to do it, but I try to protect that time, I’d like to try and protect it in the future.”

After spotting a social media response to the comments, Conservative campaign organisers chose to pile in and inaccurately argue that Starmer had said he would not work on any evening.

“It’s after 6pm so of course Angela Rayner is back in charge,” said the party’s official account on X. Claire Coutinho, the energy secretary, said: “I do think that it’s pretty unrealistic for a prime minister not to work past 6pm.”

The comments prompted warnings from senior Jewish figures about the risks of singling out someone for trying to observe the tradition of spending time with family on Friday evenings.

Marie van der Zyl, who was president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews until earlier this year, called the attacks “horribly stigmatising”.

“For Jews of all denominations and their loves ones it’s really a sacred time and I think we should be recognising that here is someone who appreciates values and traditions,” said Van der Zyl, who has recently become a Labour party member.

“He’s setting a good example and for that to become something that is criticised I think is grossly unfair.”

John Mann, a former Labour MP and now peer, who is the government’s independent adviser on antisemitism, called the Conservative attacks “dangerous”, noting that parliament did not sit on Sundays due to Christian traditions.

He said: “It’s a very strange thing to attack over. I’m the independent adviser to the prime minister and my advice would be this is not an area to stray into.”

Writing in the Jewish Chronicle, the paper’s former editor Stephen Pollard called the Conservative line of attack “puerile, pathetic and degrading for everyone involved”.

With Starmer and Sunak both set to embark on long final days of campaign trips, opinion polls have shown a slight narrowing of Labour’s lead, to 19 points, still enough most likely to deliver a significant majority for Starmer’s party.

A survey of more than 20,000 voters by Redfield and Wilton put Labour on 41%, its lowest total for the pollster since Boris Johnson was in No 10. The Conservatives were on 22%, six points above Reform UK.

With the Labour poll lead largely unmoved since the start of campaign and constituency-extrapolated polls predicting Labour majorities starting at about 150 seats, much of the final Tory message has implicitly accepted defeat and sought to limit the damage with warnings about a Labour “supermajority”.

A Tory campaign video posted on social media and emailed to supporters shows an imaginary voter in July 2025 struggling with power cuts, unpayable bills and closed schools, ending with the message: “48 hours to stop a Labour supermajority.”

Conservative campaign managers have dismissed the idea that this strategy was made up on the hoof, saying it had been prepared long in advance to be used if the polling did not tighten.

Sunak’s penultimate day of campaigning focused on seats that would ordinarily be safely Conservative, including an early morning visit to a supermarket in Witney, Oxfordshire, formerly David Cameron’s constituency.

Held by the Tories with a 15,000-plus majority in 2019, this is now under threat from the Liberal Democrats, who have stepped up campaigning in such seats in recent days.

Speaking to reporters, Sunak endorsed the attack about Starmer’s supposed work ethic, if without much apparent enthusiasm. “Everyone is going to approach this job in a different way, in my experience there is always work to do,” he said. “There’s always decisions that need to be made.”

Asked if it was right for Grant Shapps, the defence secretary, to claim that Starmer might clock off when pressing military decisions needed to taken, Sunak said: “I do worry about our country’s security, as there are deep concerns about it. This is the most dangerous time that our country has lived in it for decades.”

(2) Starmer reserves Friday nights for Shabbat dinner with his Jewish wife and their children

Stephen Pollard

Let’s Talk

Friday night dinner doesn’t make you a slacker

The Tory party offended us all by attacking Sir Keir Starmer for observing Jewish traditions


Defence Secretary Grant Shapps knows full well what trying to keep Friday night free for Shabbat means (Photo: Getty Images)

July 02, 2024 12:04

Benjamin Disraeli famously remarked that, “Desperation is sometimes as powerful an inspirer as genius.” Many are the ways in which Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives have managed to sully the history of the Conservative Party, but yesterday they showed that desperation can have quite the opposite effect to inspiring genius. Sometimes desperation can lead to behaviour that is not merely offensive but cowardly, crass and – yes – contemptible.

Interviewed on Monday on Virgin Radio by Chris Evans, Sir Keir Starmer spoke, as he has done many times before, of how he attempts to keep Friday nights free for a form of Shabbat dinner with his Jewish wife and their children: “We’ve had a strategy in place and we’ll try to keep to it, which is to carve out really protected time for the kids, so on a Friday – I’ve been doing this for years – I will not do a work-related thing after six o’clock, pretty well come what may. There are a few exceptions, but that’s what we do.”

It’s an admirable aim for anyone, but for Jews, this is deep in our DNA. Even for heathens like me who are otherwise entirely unobservant, Friday night dinner is different.

In a normal world, you wouldn’t be reading this column, because I wouldn’t have felt any need to write about Sir Keir Starmer’s commendable family arrangements. But we aren’t in a normal world. We are in a world where the Conservative Party has been so desperate to find anything with which to attack Labour that it decided in the final week of the election campaign to go on the offensive over the Labour leader choosing to have dinner with his wife and kids.

It did that not only by distorting his words beyond all recognition but, in the process, by effectively telling every Jew in Britain who spends time with his family on a Friday night, rather than working, that they – we – are lazy good-for-nothings.

The first Conservative Party response on social media read: “Keir Starmer has said he’d clock off work at 6pm if he became prime minister. You deserve better than a part-time prime minister.” (He didn’t say that, of course. He said nothing that even resembles that.) Tory deputy chairman Jonathan Gullis then posted: “Let’s hope Putin doesn’t choose 6.01pm when he wishes to go any further with his illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine.” Rishi Sunak then joined in, saying at an event on Monday night that, “I haven’t finished at 6pm, ever.” The Conservatives then sent out a mass email in the form of a fake out-of-office message from Keir Starmer, telling people to contact Angela Rayner after 6pm.

All of which is puerile, pathetic and degrading for everyone involved. Not least because during this very election campaign Rishi Sunak actually praised Sir Keir for carving out time with his children, telling LBC: “I think [Starmer] does a very good job of balancing family life and work life and making sure he prioritises that and makes time for it.”

Even by the desperate standards of a desperate party, desperate to find any way of attacking Keir Starmer, this is desperate stuff. But the desperation turns into the disgusting when it comes to Grant Shapps’ intervention.

The Defence Secretary is a proud Jew. He knows full well what trying to keep Friday night free for Shabbat with the family actually means.

Unless you’re fully observant (and unless I am missing something, even the Tories in their desperation haven’t gone so far as to suggest Sir Keir is an Orthodox Jew), it doesn’t mean switching off all electronics and refusing to answer the phone. It just means having dinner with your family.

But despite knowing that Sir Keir has said nothing remotely exceptional, and knowing from his own life exactly what the Labour leader means, Shapps went for the jugular: “Virtually every military intervention we’ve carried out has happened at night, partly to keep our servicemen and women safe

“The British people will wonder who would be standing in for Starmer between 6pm and 9am – Angela Rayner, David Lammy, Ed Miliband? Defending Britain’s security isn’t a daylight hours only job.”

It is bad enough that the prime minister should resort to this desperate, baseless lie that Sir Keir Starmer has said he will clock off at 6pm every night.

It is even worse that the message underlying this smear is that any Jew who has Friday night dinner with his family – let alone anyone who actually keeps Shabbat – is a wastrel deserving of opprobrium from the government.

But what is truly foul is when that attack comes from a Jew. For shame.

(3) Economist magazine backs Starmer for Britain’s next prime minister

Leaders | The British election

Keir Starmer should be Britain’s next prime minister

Why Labour must form the next government


Jun 27th 2024

You would never know it from a low-wattage campaign but after 14 years of Conservative rule, Britain is on the threshold of a Labour victory so sweeping that it may break records. No party fully subscribes to the ideas that The Economist holds dear. The economic consensus in Britain has shifted away from liberal values—free trade, individual choice and limits to state intervention. But elections are about the best available choice and that is clear. If we had a vote on July 4th, we, too, would pick Labour, because it has the greatest chance of tackling the biggest problem that Britain faces: a chronic and debilitating lack of economic growth.

Consider first the alternatives. We can discard some immediately. The Scottish National Party wants to dismember Britain, not run it. The Greens make student politics look rigorous. Reform uk, Nigel Farage’s outfit, offers a fevered, nativist vision of Britain that would accelerate the very decline it says it is striving to prevent.

What of the Liberal Democrats? The logic that led us to endorse them in 2019 no longer holds. Against Boris Johnson’s Brexit-obsessed Tories and Labour under Jeremy Corbyn, a hard-left charisma vacuum, they were the only choice. Today the Lib Dems still have some good policies—letting asylum-seekers work, say, or a new land-value tax—but they have become more sceptical on trade and even more nimbyish on planning. The Lib Dems do not aspire to be a credible party of government; they are barely credible as liberals.

Trying to make the case for the Tories is like a teacher struggling to say something nice about the class troublemaker. They have done some good things: on educational standards, on regional devolution and on the tax regime for capital investment. Rishi Sunak is a better prime minister than Liz Truss, though if praise came any fainter it would be invisible. The pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine—where they also did well—vastly complicated their time in office.

But the other side of the ledger is long and damning. The public realm has been hollowed out. Prisons are full; local government is badly underfunded; and if the National Health Service is still a national treasure, that may be because treatment is so hard to find. On migration, the Tories are illiberal and ineffective: they want to crack down on it yet have presided over record levels of net migration. They have become increasingly hostile to policies designed to combat climate change. Above all, they have failed to build. Housing supply lags behind demand, and grid connections take years to materialise.

The Tories’ most memorable policy is to have severed the country from its biggest trading partner. That was always going to be bad for Britain, but the chaos of enacting Brexit split the party and voters have had to endure the Tory psychodrama ever since. Each prime minister has undone the work of the previous one. The party has neglected its prosperous voters in the south-east. From drinking sessions in Downing Street during the pandemic to bets allegedly placed on the timing of the election, a film of sleaze clings to the Conservatives.

Although the Tory party does not deserve our endorsement, wishing its obliteration would be wrong. The British electorate has become more volatile. The political pendulum could swing away from Labour within a single five-year term. Whenever it does so, Britain will need a capable opposition party to offer an alternative. A Tory catastrophe and a strong showing for Mr Farage, who dreams of staging a reverse Tory takeover, would heighten the risk that the Conservatives lurch towards a dark, populist extreme. Britain needs the party to rediscover its conservative, pro-market instincts

That is the negative case for voting Labour, but there are positive arguments, too. The first is that the party has been transformed. Since the last election Sir Keir Starmer has expelled Mr Corbyn, rooted out many of his fellow travellers and dragged Labour away from radical socialism. The Economist disagrees with the party on many things, such as its plan to create a publicly owned energy provider. But elections are when voters mete out rewards as well as punishments, and Labour’s reinvention deserves credit.

The second positive reason to back Labour is its focus on growth. The party is right in its diagnosis that nothing matters more than solving Britain’s stagnant productivity. Its young, aspiring, urban supporters will give it permission to act in ways that the Conservatives have avoided. The most obvious of these is building more houses and infrastructure, and forging closer relations with Europe. The party of public services may also have more latitude to reform them than the Tories would.

The question that hangs over Labour is how radical it will be in pursuit of growth. It has run a maddeningly cautious campaign, choosing to reassure voters rather than seek a mandate for bold change. It does not help that Sir Keir, having been in Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet before ejecting him, seems to turn with the wind. Having strenuously avoided the subject in the campaign, a Labour government will need to raise taxes (as would a Conservative one if it was not to wreck public services). For all these reasons, having failed to set out a vision to steer by, prime minister Starmer could more easily be blown off course by events or sidetracked by growth-stifling left-wing preoccupations, such as beefing up workers’ rights, stamping out inequality and doling out industrial subsidies.

Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood

Sir Keir’s answer to this criticism of him as a campaigner should be his determination and competence in office. His method is to work relentlessly towards a goal, ratcheting up pressure as he goes. After years of post-Brexit Conservative ideological lurches, that in itself will be worth something. If Labour also succeeds in overhauling the planning regime, strengthening ties with Europe, giving fiscal power to cities, focusing the Treasury on growth and rationalising the tax system, the picture will brighten and Britain will be better off. Sir Keir and his party have earned the chance to try.

(4) Rioting Trots burn Paris after populist National Rally party victory

Paris is burning: Rioting leftists besiege French capital after populist National Rally party victory

By  Chris Nesi

Published July 1, 2024, 2:45 p.m. ET

The streets of Paris became a war zone overnight Sunday as tens of thousands of left-wing rioters took to the streets in fiery opposition to the historic election victory by the country’s right-wing National Rally (NR).

Rioters smashed storefront windows, vandalized monuments and set massive bonfires in public squares after the election results revealed the party, headed by nationalist Marine Le Pen, took 33% of the vote in the decisive first round of France’s legislative elections.


Thousands of leftist protesters turned Paris into a war zone Sunday after the populist National Rally party prevailed in the first round of France’s legislative elections.REUTERS

Stunning <>video spread widely online showed mass groups of demonstrators clashing with cops, launching fireworks that at times bathed city streets in an eerie blood-red glow.

Plumes of tear gas smoke wafted throughout the crowds as they battled it out in the streets with riot-gear clad police officers, the wild melee punctuated by the sounds of coughing and shattering glass.

A united bloc of left-leaning parties called the New Popular Front coalition nabbed 28% of the vote for a second-place finish, while incumbent President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party scraped together just 20% of the vote.

National Rally, led by Marine Le Pen, received 33% of the vote compared to 28% for a coalition of left-wing parties.AP

The dead-last finish marked a stinging defeat for Macron, who called for the snap runoff election the day after his party was defeated by NR in June’s parliamentary elections as a Hail Mary attempt to thwart the NR’s continued rise.

But the ascent of right-of-center party in a free and fair election proved too much for many Paris youths to bear, who directed their anger toward vandalizing their own city’s landmarks and businesses.

Much like the US, France has been beset by an overwhelming influx of migrants in recent years. Le Pen’s promise to crack down on illegal immigration as a major campaign platform has clearly resonated with a wide swath of the nation’s electorate.


Rioters clashed with cops, launching fireworks and tossing canisters of tear gas back at the police as they tried to control the crowds.AP

Tapping into that frustration, Le Pen managed to build a coalition of supporters across the country, particularly in farming communities and other small towns. She’s also been a major presence on social media, with more than 1.1 million followers on TikTok.

Sunday’s voter turnout was up sharply over 2022’s tally, with 60% going to the polls compared to 39.4% last year.

(5) More than 210 candidates exit French election runoff to stop Le Pen

More than 210 candidates exit French election runoff to block far right progress

More than 210 left-wing or Macronist candidates who qualified for the runoff round of the legislative elections have withdrawn in an effort to block the far right from taking power, a move supported by the French president.

Issued on: 02/07/2024 – 20:47Modified: 02/07/2024 – 21:07


France votes Sunday in the second round of snap legislative polls Macron called seeking a “clarification” in politics after his camp was trounced in European elections last month.

National Rally block?

His gamble backfired, with the far-right National Rally (RN) of Marine Le Pen winning the 30 June first round. But the key suspense now is whether the RN can get enough seats to form a government.

With the clock ticking to a deadline later Tuesday to register, over 210 pro-Macron or left-wing candidates had pulled out of contests to prevent the RN winning seats.

Le Pen appeared to row back on previous comments that the RN would only form a government with an absolute majority of 289 of the 577 seats in the National Assembly, saying it would still try if slightly below this figure.

She said her party would seek to form a government and make the 28-year-old <>Jordan Bardella prime minister from a minimum of “for example, 270 deputies” and then find support from 19 more MPs.

“If we then have a majority, then yes, of course, we’ll go and do what the voters elected us to do”, she told broadcaster <>France Inter.

If Bardella becomes prime minister, this would create a tense period of “cohabitation” with Macron, who has vowed to serve out his term until 2027.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, 35, said late Monday it “would be catastrophic for the French” to give the far right an absolute majority.

Just 76 lawmakers, almost all from the far right and left were elected outright in the first round of voting at the weekend.

The fate of the remaining 501 seats will be determined in the second round in run-offs between two or three remaining candidates.

Candidates quit

Of the candidates who have decided to quit the race more than 120 are members of the left-wing New Popular Front (NFP – Nouveau Front Populaire) coalition, which came second in the first round, and more than 70 represent Macron’s camp.

A RN candidate on Tuesday also dropped out of the race over a social media post showing her in <>a cap from the Luftwaffe air force of Nazi Germany, a party official said.

But there has been discord within the presidential camp over backing those NFP candidates who hark from the <>France Unbowed (LFI) hard-left party.

Several heavyweights in the Macron camp, including economy minister Bruno Le Maire and former prime minister <>Edouard Philippe, have argued they should not help candidates from the LFI which is accused by its critics of extremism and failing to back Israel after the 7 October attack by Hamas.

‘Administrative coup.

As tensions rise five days ahead of the ballot, Le Pen accused Macron of rushing to appoint officials to key jobs in the police and other institutions before any cohabitation in what she described as “a form of administrative coup d’etat”

Macron’s office urged her to show “restraint”, saying appointments have been part of an established routine.

Most projections in the immediate aftermath of the first round showed the RN falling short of an absolute majority.

Analysts say the most likely outcome is a hung parliament that could lead to months of political paralysis, at a time when France is hosting the Olympics.

The chaos also risks damaging the international credibility of Macron who is set to attend a NATO summit in Washington immediately after the vote.

(with AFP)

(6) Le Pen comes out against Brussels Elite’s environment policies hurting ordinary people

Wednesday, July 03, 2024

1:36 am (Paris)

French elections: Why is the rejection of environmentalism a driving force behind France’s far-right vote?

After long neglecting environmental issues, the far-right party has made the denunciation of allegedly ‘punitive’ environmental policies into its new electoral weapon.

By Matthieu Goar

Published on June 20, 2024, at 5:00 am (Paris)

On May 1, an important date for the far-right Rassemblement National (RN) party, as heirs to the former Front National (FN), Marine Le Pen delivered her customary speech in the southern French city of Perpignan. Standing behind a lectern and next to a French flag, she outlined the crucial themes for the RN ahead of the European elections – with a significant focus on environmental policy. The former presidential candidate railed against “Brussels,” which “forces you, almost overnight, to change your boiler for €15,000,” against the “authoritarian reductions to agricultural land” and against the “heartless European Commission.”

“Don’t they have as their objective the reduction of human activity as a whole?” she asked, before connecting the issue to her obsession with French people’s daily lives, a strategy that has brought the RN to the threshold of coming to power. “It’s always the same logic of degrowth, which leads them to ban the sale of internal combustion engines in 2035, and thus deliberately program the sacking of our automotive industry and dependence on China,” she continued.


Long downplayed or mocked, environmental issues are now a core part of the RN’s political strategy. Previously, the party had tried to build its own doctrine on these subjects through “localism,” a concept stemming from the far-right identitarian movement. However, the populist party has shifted to a simpler tactic: To identify tense subjects, and capitalize on the resentments and tensions generated by the green transition.

“At the time of the Yellow Vests crisis, the RN understood that the climate issue could start to disrupt everyday life and therefore create discontent,” summed up Théodore Tallent, a researcher and lecturer at the elite social sciences university Sciences Po, and the author of a recent note for the Fondation Jean Jaurès think tank on the risk of backlash, i.e. the hardening of opinions when faced with the scale of major challenges. “This allows them to find a new way to criticize Brussels, the elites, to come to the defense of the ‘little people’ who would be oppressed by the ‘powerful’,” he continued.

During the 2021 regional elections, Le Pen spoke out against wind turbines, “a major battle (…), a visual, ecological and economic disaster.” Since 2021 and the adoption of the Climate and Resilience law, those closest to her have denounced a bevy of measures, such as low-emission zones and net-zero land artficialisation, before focusing on the recent crisis in the agricultural world. It was at this moment that Jordan Bardella, the RN’s president, railed against “the tyranny of NGOs, the government of judges and Europe.”

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