Ken Livingstone: Wealth Has Turned U.K. Jews Into Conservatives

Controversial British politician says income, rather than skin color, is the reason people vote for different political parties.

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London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, looks out across London after an interview at his headquarters on London's South Bank, October 3, 2006.Credit: Bloomberg

British Jews have switched their political allegiances as they've become richer, former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said during a TV program on Tuesday night.

Livingstone, known in his heyday as "Red Ken" for his far-left politics, was participating in a discussion on the BBC’s Newsnight program about the role of ethnic minorities in politics.

He made the point that income, rather than skin color, was the reason people voted for different political parties.

“If we were talking 50 years ago, the Roman Catholic community, the Irish community in Britain, the Jewish community was solidly Labor. Still the Irish Catholic community is pretty still solidly Labor because it is not terribly rich.

“As the Jewish community got richer, it moved over to voting for Mrs Thatcher as they did in Finchley," Livingstone said. Thatcher represented the Conservative Party is the strongly Jewish constituency.

“People come to Britain to become part of Britain, they don’t come to change it," Livingstone said. "I think the defining issue is not your color or your religion, it is your level of income.”

Referring to Sajid Javid, who was recently appointed culture secretary in the Conservative government of David Cameron, Livingstone said: "I look at him and I don’t see a Pakistani, I see a banker who earned £3million (17.5 million shekels)  a year. That is why he is in the Tory party.”

Livingstone made a similar remark while running for mayor in 2012. It was the latest, but apparently not the last, in a long series of remarks that have been taken badly by Britain's Jewish community.

Livingstone's comments were dismissed by Adrian Cohen, chairman of the London Jewish forum. "Ken Livingstone last made comments to this effect during the mayoral election," Cohen said. "It's pretty obvious that politicians shouldn't write off parts of the electorate based on crude assumptions about their perceived relative affluence."

Cohen added: "Many Jews are not rich, indeed many struggle to make ends meet. In any event, there are many factors which influence how a person chooses to vote and one shouldn't refer to Jewish Londoners as if they were homogeneous."