Hendon gives Boris a warm welcome: from head to toe
If Boris Johnson needed to refuel as his gruelling campaign for re-election enters its final stretch, he could hardly have found a better place last Sunday morning.
At every turn on his whistlestop tour of north London, taking in Stanmore, Edgware, Golders Green and Hendon, the mayor was offered bagels, falafel and other kosher delights as he pounded the streets to deliver his message that London faced a choice between going forward under his leadership or backwards if his main rival, Ken Livingstone, is elected to power.
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"We have extra funding for police and I don't think in a month of Sundays that such funding would be given to Ken Livingstone by central government."
In terms of security for the Jewish community, he said the issue had been raised with the police in the wake of the Toulouse shootings but there was no reason to suggest an increased threat level.
The man hoping for a second term in City Hall also spoke of his support for the communty's schools, but the focus of was not only on issues of specific interest to London Jewry.
In Edgware, where Johnson was met with cheers of "Boris! Boris!" and honking of car horns, Lubavitch director Rabbi Leivi Sudak, who pointed to the "Boris bikes" scheme as one of many achievements of the past four years, gave the Conservative candidate a blessing "on behalf of all the people of London that he should be provided with the opportunity to bring more employment".
Less satisfied with her encounter with the mayor, however, was another Edgware resident, who told the Jewish News she had asked the mayor "what he'd do for me as a voter on the bottom rung". She felt his answer, focusing on cutting waste, had been inadequate.
In Stanmore, a local bakery presented the mayor with two platters of food, which were later distributed among grateful campaign staff and journalists on the bus, and posed for pictures with numerous locals, including Stanmore Synagogue's Rabbi Mendel Lew.
The minister told the Jewish News: "As a community, we're not political and we shouldn't be political but we should give credit where it's due. He's done a good job so far." Although he heavily criticised the previous mayor's record when it comes to relations with the Jewish community, he said he'd like to see Livingstone visit the area. "He might be the mayor and we would like to think we could work with him. I hope he can improve on last time when I felt embarrassed to call him my representative."
Although he hoped he would get a respectful reception, Rabbi Lew, who later joined Johnson and other rabbis at a lunch at the White House Express in Hendon, warned: "I'm sure some people would give him a piece of their minds."
The plight of Jewish students on campus, the recent banning of a bus poster attacking the gay community and rabbinic blood in the mayor's own ancestry were among the issues discussed at the informal lunch, which concluded the tour.
Two days later, at a London Jewish Forum meeting with Jewish voters at the LJCC, he argued anyone planning to vote for his Labour rival "needed their head tested".
Joking that the election was not about "who said what to whom in a lift" or "party election broadcasts that move people to tears", Johnson told the gathering that voters faced a clear choice.
"Whether you want to go forward with a sensible cost-effective administration or back to a bunch of semi-reformed Marxists and bendy-bus fetishists. Do you want to go forward with an administration who believes in investing in London's future or do you want to go back with an administration that would put that investment at risk for reasons of short-term political opportunism? Do you want to go forward with a mayor that believes in uniting this city or go back to a mayor who basically thinks is a good idea to play one group off against another for obscure reasons of cynical psephological calculation?"
During the meeting he also pledged to continue his support for housing requirements among the Charedi community and heaped praise on Mitzvah Day.
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