Matthew Offord, the new Conservative MP for the London constituency of Hendon, recently asked Justice Secretary Ken “cancer sticks” Clarke in parliament whether he proposed to change the law so that:
“only the Crown Prosecution Service will be able to initiate prosecutions for universal jurisdiction offences”
Due to the frequency of human rights abuses by the State of Israel, the frequency of visits of Israeli politicians to the UK, and the infrequency of those politicians being held to account, it is clear that as Michael Mansfield QC wrote in the Guardian:
“Where states have failed to comply with international law, private citizens must have the right to instigate transgressors’ arrest”
A recent trip to Israel
In light of Offord`s parliamentary question on Universal Jurisdiction, a recent high-powered visit to Israel seems especially relevant. On 1st July 2010 the website of the Hendon Conservatives mentioned that:
“Last week Matthew Offord, Hendon’s MP, visited Israel as part of a delegation from the JNF charity”
“After a breakfast meeting with David Horovitz, the Editor-in-Chief of the Jerusalem Post, Matthew attended a private meeting with the Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman where the issues of the Gaza blockade, Iran’s nuclear capability and America’s foreign policy were all discussed.”
Matthew Offord, MP, planting a tree at the Lord Sacks Forest near Jerusalem
The constituency of Hendon has a large Jewish population and its preoccupation with Israel was well illustrated by Israeli daily Haaretz`s coverage of an election debate in Hendon United Synagogue:
The three candidates were sitting up on the stage last Wednesday night: One wearing a skullcap (though he is not Jewish), the second waxing poetic about his trip to Israel, and the third furious about anti-Semitism in Europe and twice mentioning his personal role in getting Holocaust Remembrance Day put on the national calendar.
and as the debate started the focus of the audience became apparent:
They seem generally uninterested matters of community hospitals, transport or the like. Its all Israel and Jews, all the time. And the candidates have no choice but to oblige. “Do you support the terrorist organization Hamas?” an elderly gentleman asks, getting the debate going. The candidates practically fall over each other in their rush to answer in the negative. “Look at what they have done to their own people!” begins Matthew Offord, the Tory contender. “Despicable,” charges Matthew Harris, of the Liberal Democrats. “I am in despair what I see what they are doing in Gaza,” pipes in Andrew Dismore, the current Hendon MP, a Labour man who has represented this constituency since 1997.
(“British candidates court UK Jews ahead of election” – Haaretz – 03.05.10)
Marcus Dysch, writing in the avowedly Zionist Jewish Chronicle viewed the same phenomenon in a rather more positive light:
“While Hendon voters are concerned over local matters such as hospitals and transport, candidates are likely to face tougher questioning on Jewish doorsteps over their handling of wider issues concerning Israel.”
An earlier trip to Israel
Matthew Offord was one of the 17 Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPC) who went to Israel in November 2007 on a trip organised by the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI). Readers of this blog may remember a previous reference to this trip, which was notable because 10 of those PPCs went on to receive donations of £2000 or more from CFI sponsor, the Lewis Trust Group, including Cheltenham candidate Mark Coote and Stroud candidate (now MP) Neil Carmichael. After the trip Offord said:
“The trip with CFI has given me an opportunity to see first-hand how people live their lives and as a result it has helped me to better understand the frustrations terrorism has created – both in the country itself and the Middle East as a whole.”
Unlike Mark Coote and Neil Carmichael, Offord did not receive a donation from the Lewis Trust Group in the months that followed the trip. Since he was a PPC for a constituency with a large Jewish population clearly his support for Israel could be relied upon without a financial incentive!
A BBC connection
According to this tantalising snippet of info from Barnet Today (22 April 2010), before representing Israel Hendon in Parliament, Offord earned a crust at the BBC:
“Mr Offord, who has worked as an analyst for the BBC, now works formulating the broadcaster’s long-term strategy and is currently a ward councillor for Hendon.”