Labour has lost me, as it has lost the plot over Israel
Actress Maureen Lipman has been a life-long Labour supporter. But the party's breathtaking hypocrisy and generally shameful behaviour regarding Israel means she won't be voting Labour at the 2015 elections
For the first time in five decades, I shall not be voting Labour. I have always been a socialist and I believe in the principles of socialism. I have stood on the hustings beside Neil Kinnock and canvassed for my Aunt Rita in her constituency in Hull. I was, somewhat blurrily, a Blair luvvie and I used my dislike of Mrs Thatcher to fuel some deadly impersonations of her.
My late husband, Jack Rosenthal, canvassed for Sydney Silverman in the 1945 General Election. "In them days," said the father in his seminal television play Bar Mitzvah Boy, "they handed you your Labour Party membership just after your circumcision. They gave with one hand and took away with the other.''
I still believe that, until the Iraq debacle, Tony Blair did great work to restore the party's fortunes. I still thumb through Tony Benn's diaries with a fond smile and I am Alan Johnson's number one fan as a politician, a writer and a humane human being. I have all the time in the world for Margaret Beckett and still admire Frank Field.
I rather liked David Miliband and have a sneaking suspicion he may return strengthened by his time out in the real world. But this lot? The Chuka Harman Burnham Hunt Balls brigade? I can't, in all seriousness, go into a booth and put my mark on any one of them.
Ed Miliband's leadership coup was as biblical as anything in the book of Genesis, although the unions probably had less sway in those days. He comes from a family of secular Jews but his need for union approval is much greater than his need for Jewish support. We make up less than one per cent of the population, so why should he care if we vote for him or not?
At a recent gathering he asked me if I was a practising Jew. I told him I was constantly practising and seldom achieving, but I did my best. "Do you do Shabbat dinners?" he asked. "Yes, when I can," I told him. "Would you like to come?" He expressed enthusiasm to learn more about the religion of his birth. We parted with a promise to ring each other's people. Two days later he was all over the papers, knocking back a bacon sandwich.
Now there is nothing intrinsically wrong with a secular Jew chomping on a thinly sliced, pan-fried pig rump — my late husband, before we were married, had been known to queue up for such a thing from the catering van on an early morning film shoot. That was fine with me. His choice. I just couldn't kiss him. Wouldn't or couldn't or both. Fair choice, I thought: treif or wife?
There is a story about a rabbi who longed to try a pig's head — just couldn't get the thought out of his own head. One day he had cause to travel many miles away and he decided to sneak under nightfall into a small, out of the way restaurant, famous for its pig's heads. The head was delivered steaming to his table, replete with an apple in its mouth.
As the rabbi was about to take a large bite out of the pig, the doors opened and in walked one of his congregation. He turned to the incomer and yelled: "Can you believe this farshtinkener place? You ask for an apple and this is how they serve it!"
BLT butty aside, though, I have delayed sending my invitation to Mr Ed because since then, our man has got something else between his teeth: Israel. Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse. Just when the anti-Semitism in France, Denmark, Norway, Hungary is mounting savagely, just when our cemeteries and synagogues and shops are once again under threat.
Just when the virulence against a country defending itself, against 4,000 rockets and 32 tunnels inside its borders, as it has every right to do under the Geneva Convention, had been swept aside by the real pestilence of IS, in steps Mr Miliband to demand that the government recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel.
Cue wild applause from the unions, smiles of approbation from the far Left — and shock horror from the Jewish Board of Deputies. Why would he do this? And why now? Many people on the Left and the Right would like to see a two-state solution if it means peace and mutual respect. I am one of them. Any future Palestinian state will be entirely free of Jews, of course. Yet the Jewish state is labelled "apartheid" with 1.7 million Arabs in residence and represented in parliament.
(1) It is a historical fact that the Arab states refused such an offer in 1937, 1947, 2000 and 2008. They have yet to accept Israel's right to exist and their constitutions and broadcasts to this day extol its destruction.
(2) How can you recognise a state until its borders are decided?
(3) If you recognise a state you can officially arm that state. Already billions of pounds have been allotted to rebuild Gaza. Ha! Rebuild the tunnels and reequip the arsenal. Oh, how the propaganda has worked on these clever, concerned people again and again and again.
If Hamas and Fatah cared one iota for the Palestinians, might they not have built schools and hospitals and streets for their people the first time the billions poured in and were converted into weaponry and hotel suites in Paris and citizens were used as human shields?
I'm an actress, Ed, and I am often commended for my timing. Frankly, my dear, yours sucks. The world is exploding around us. Isis is beheading our civilians while raping and pillaging across Syria and Iraq. Presidents Putin and Assad are playing such heavy-handed games that we don't know which rebel group to support.
Hong Kong may be about to see a replay of Tiananmen. Islamist terrorism in every spot on the globe — and if one Jew had been responsible for any of those bombings, there would, I am afraid to say, have been another Kristallnacht. At this point in our history you choose to back these footling backbenchers in this ludicrous piece of propaganda?
And tell me this, Mr Miliband, sir, where are the pictures of the civilian dead from the allied bombings over Iraq? On which front pages can I see them? The daily count of dead and maimed babies? The howling mothers and screaming old women we saw every day, five times a day, from Gaza? May I remind you that no one is tunnelling into Dover or sending rockets into Coventry, yet we seem to have every right to bomb the living daylights out of Iraq.
Again. Conclusion: one law for the Israelis, another law for the rest of the world. Plus ça change.
So, come election day, I shall give my vote to another party. Almost any other party. Until my party is once more led by mensches.
Maureen Lipman is an actress, comedian and writer. Her most recent book is I Must Collect Myself (Simon & Schuster)
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