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Showing posts from 2020


Whilst I cannot claim to have read every obituary and post-mortem appreciation of the late former chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth, Jonathan Henry Sacks (who died on 7 November 2020), I have certainly read a great many. With very few exceptions, they follow a common pattern. If they mention the multiple failures and shortcomings of his chief rabbinate at all [and most do not], they are notoriously economical with the truth, treating these as aberrational, incidental to his life and peripheral in their significance and impact. They concentrate rather on his reputation in the wider world, beyond the orbit of British Jewry, and they argue that if that reputation was high – even outstanding – then his numerous communal embarrassments must be discounted, or even entirely ignored. This is not a view that I share.   I have in fact perused with astonishment some of the encomia that have been heaped upon him. Here are very short extracts from three.
THE LONDON CONGESTION CHARGE Following the announcement by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan that the amount of the London Congestion Charge would increase to £15 a day, with longer hours of applicability  and extending to 7 days a week, I requested Greater London Assembly Member Andrew Dismore to ask the Mayor on my behalf what mandate - if any - he considered he had for these measures. Mr Dismore declined to put such a question, arguing that in the current pandemic emergency situation the Mayor had no choice in the matter, because these measures were virtually ordered by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps as a condition of the government's bailout of Transport for London. I asked Mr Dismore if he could point to that part of Mr Shapps' relevant letter to the Mayor [14 May 2020] requiring the Mayor to make these changes to the Congestion Charge. Mr Dismore pointed to paragraph 12h of the letter. In that paragraph, as a condition of the bailout, the Mayor is req


In recent weeks I’ve given interviews to British, Israeli and even German newspapers on the subject of the fate of the Jewish Chronicle. Naturally I have been careful to declare a number of interests. It was for the Jewish Chronicle that from 2002 until 2016 I wrote the paper’s weekly anchor comment column. I never missed a deadline. Besides filing these columns I wrote others for the paper, including book reviews and obituaries. Then I should add that as part of my academic research I have actually read every edition of the JC, from its very first in 1841. I still resort to its invaluable online searchable archive to check this fact or that. In common with many other newspapers the JC has been struggling financially in recent years. In 2018 it posted a loss of around £1.5 million. Its immediate future appeared to have been secured by donations from (as the Financial Times unhelpfully put it) “unnamed individuals,” but evidently this was not enough to sav