The Jewish community breathed a collective sigh of relief as the results of the election became known last Thursday night, and their fears of a Labour government, led by Jeremy Corbyn, receded.
Why were the results so significant?
The first consequence of the elections is that a modicum of stability has been restored to the government. We are commanded, in Pirkei Avos, “Pray for the peace of the governing power, because if it were not for their power each man would swallow his friend alive!” Since the ruling party lost its working majority in the 2017 General Election, the Government were effectively at the mercy of small parties who offered their support in return for their own requirements. The country was becoming increasingly frustrated by the paralysis of our lawmakers to assert their authority. Uncertainty and indecision were rife. It is in that sort of climate that bigotry and prejudice can thrive.
This obstacle has thankfully now been removed. The authority of the leading party in government has indeed been strengthened.
The Jewish community in particular have reason to be thankful for the election results. We are extremely fortunate to be living in a malchus shel chessed – a country that treats its minority communities with respect and tolerance. Unfortunately, the pre-election campaigning and canvassing were partially dominated by accusations of endemic anti-Semitism in one of the mainstream political parties. Jewish MPs felt so uncomfortable that they chose to leave that party. Who knows what problems could have been made for the Jewish community if they had gained power? Furthermore, if the party would have been successful, that could have signaled widespread approval of their attitude. The fact that the party received its worst electoral performance since 1935 is a strong message that their attitude is rejected by the majority of the electorate.
What does the election show us about the state of modern democracy?
One of the most vaunted concepts of modern times is the process of democracy – government of the people by the people.
It may come as a surprise to some readers to learn that democracy was invented by our erstwhile Chanukah adversaries, the Yevanim. The first democratic government was established in the city-state of Athens about 2,500 years ago. They had “direct democracy,” where every citizen had the right to speak and vote for laws. One of the reasons this system was feasible was because of the relatively small population of Athens, by modern standards — only 300,000 people. The concept of universal suffrage was unknown. Citizenship rights were limited strictly to male, adult, non-slave Athenians of citizen descent. Therefore, women, children, slaves, foreigners and resident aliens — groups that together made up a majority of the city’s population — had no right to participate in the assembly. In contrast, modern democracy is called “representative democracy,” meaning that mass voting is generally limited to once every several years. Voters merely get the choice of their representatives in Parliament, with the exception of occasional referenda. It is those representatives, not the voters themselves, who have the power to decide in matters of state.
Britain is often looked upon as the “Mother of Democracy.” However, the process of modern democracy has been long. Women were given the vote in 1918. The age limit on voters in Britain was lowered to 18 years old in 1969. The last two General Elections have demonstrated how much hashgachah pratis is present in the results. When decreed from Above, the government was enfeebled and undermined. Now, b’rachamei Shamayim, the voice of those who openly disparaged us has been weakened.
The Labour Party policy would have led to the closing of private schools, including chareidi schools in the private sector. These policies awaken comparisons to the decree banning Torah in the time of Chanukah. Ironically, it has been the democratic system that was instituted by the Yevanim themselves that has come to our rescue and defeated their plans.
In conclusion, we cannot know the ultimate results of the latest General Election. We will only be able to recognize in retrospect where the yeshuas Hashem has really come from. Many serious challenges still face us. But in the meantime, we should still fully appreciate the Yad Hashem that has protected us, and thank the One who controls the destiny of Klal Yisrael and the whole world.