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 Jewish PMs in New Zealand

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Caro
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PostSubject: Jewish PMs in New Zealand   Thu 12 Apr 2012, 01:43

I said I would write about New Zealand Prime Ministers with Jewish ancestry and Gil suggested I widen that beyond NZ. But I won’t – the research would be too much for me. How many Jewish PMs in Britain have there been? I only know of Disraeli, but no doubt there have been lots more. Perhaps someone else can talk about them here.

The main one people would associate with Jewishness is Julius Vogel who was born in London in 1835 and came to Melbourne in 1852 with a background in metallurgy, following the gold rushes. He came to New Zealand in 1861 and soon became involved in journalism, setting up the Otago Daily Times that year, the first daily newspaper in the country and still going strong. It’s the only major paper here not owned by Fairfax media and before that Rupert Murdoch. I used to work for Murdoch which was a source of some discomfort, but he takes no notice of a tinpot little country like New Zealand, so people go their own way here.

I read that Vogel was the only practicing Jew who became PM, but a history of NZ says he was a non-observant Jew. (His father was a Christian.) In 1866 he entered Parliament favouring the provincial system then in place, and a plan to separate the South Island from the North administratively.

He became Treasurer at the age of 35 and had a bold expansionist policy to bring many immigrants to the country and to construct a good deal of infrastructure. It was adopted and £20 million was borrowed to bring in about 100,000 immigrants, especially women. More than half from England, most of the rest from Ireland and Scotland, with 10% from Germany, Scandinavia and Poland. (This influx was not necessarily helpful to the indigenous Maori population, which declined in numbers and fertility and power. They bounced back later.) 1800 kms of railway were built, 4000kms of telegraph lines and lots of roads. This was followed by a booming economy (later followed by depression in the 1880s) and Vogel was knighted in 1876, having become Premier in 1873.

Vogel went to England as Agent-General to London and to pursue his own business interests (which were ambitious and sometimes of dubious legality but were ultimately grand failures). He returned in 1884, was returned to Parliament and eventually became Leader of the Opposition and retired in ill health, returning to Britain where he died in 1899. His biographer said he never became a real NZer, and his focus was on making a Federation of Britain and its Empire. He opposed federation with Australia, fearing that country would be dominant (still the main fear of too much association with Australia).

He wrote a lot but is remembered mostly for his futuristic novel 2000: A Woman’s Destiny in which high political offices were held by women and there was no poverty. (In 2000 we did have a woman PM, but poverty was still there.) The Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand says of him: Vogel was vastly ambitious. He was clever, impulsive, generous, strong-willed to the point of being domineering. His overt ambition and ruthless behaviour repelled some contemporaries but his openness, his powerful and magnetic personality attracted others. He became a master at winning men over to his side by promises and patronage. He was not a profound political thinker, his early radical views rapidly giving way to the practical politics of development and, as he frequently said, the creation of happy homes and a prosperous nation.

He is remembered as a major statesman of New Zealand who did a lot to improve it. I wonder if my kids have heard of him. I suppose so.

(This is getting very long and I’ve only done one person. And now I’ve been asked to come in and work at 3 o’clock, so might leave more for another day.)
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Caro
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PostSubject: Re: Jewish PMs in New Zealand   Thu 12 Apr 2012, 02:00

I meant to say that New Zealand doesn't have a large Jewish population - around 7000 out of our nearly 4.5 million. They are mostly in Auckland and Wellington with smaller populations in South Island cities. There are a few synagogues and was just one chabad house which was destroyed in the Christchurch earthquake that killed 3 Israelis. There were people in the chabad house at the time but they all escaped without harm.
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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: Jewish PMs in New Zealand   Thu 12 Apr 2012, 12:39

How about Alistair Lewis, Caro? According to sources I've consulted, he should also be considered.
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Caro
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PostSubject: Re: Jewish PMs in New Zealand   Thu 12 Apr 2012, 22:53

Oh, thanks, Ian. I just needed to spend an hour researching a non-existent NZ politician! What sources did you find? The only mention I can see is one in wikipedia.

I can't find his name anywhere else in any possible leading political role here. He's not in any list of PMs, and I checked our governors and governors general (which I think are called governor-generals in popular lingua) which irritatingly just refer to them often by titles. So we have the Earl of Onslow, the Earl of Glasgow, the Marquess of Normandy, etc. (Minor aristocracy, they were referred to in one reference.) Anyway cheking out these names was fascinating in itself. Our first governor general was called Arthur William de Brito Savile Foljambe (otherwise known as the Earl of Liverpool but he doesn't sound suitably English to me). And our beloved Ranfurly Shield, still I suppose the premier sporting trophy in NZ played between rugby clubs on a sort of challenge basis, was donated by the Earl of Ranfurly, whose first name is Uchter (Uchter John Mark Knox) and who was born in Guernsey.

I don't suppose I'll remember any of this for more than five seconds, but it has been very interesting if not very useful for the purpose.

I will get back later to Francis Bell and John Key who did/do exist!

Cheers, Caro.
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PostSubject: Re: Jewish PMs in New Zealand   Fri 13 Apr 2012, 00:29

Francis Henry Dillon Bell (Harry Bell) was notionally the first New Zealand-born (in 1851) Prime Minister of New Zealand and one of its three PMs of Jewish ancestry. He was the son of (rather confusingly) Francis Dillon Bell and both men were knighted. His mother was Margaret Hort and she was Jewish but converted to Christianity. However Harry Bell was only PM for 16 days. He was educated in New Zealand schools and Cambridge university and became a prominent lawyer. He refused office in England and later refused twice to become a judge.

In 1975 he returned to New Zealand and was highly regarded as a lawyer (in one book or website I saw him described as perhaps New Zealand’s best lawyer ever) and became Mayor of Wellington in 1891. He was elected as an independent MP in 1893 and was in and out of Parliament, the mayoralty, Crown solicitor, President of the Law Society for the next thirty years. He became a junior minister in Parliament but very influential with the PM, William Massey. When Massey died in office during a Parliamentary recess he took over briefly to allow a successor to be found. Te Ara Encyclopedia says, Bell was ideally suited to undertake temporary leadership: he stood apart from party organisation, he had been for some months de facto prime minister and he was known to have no political ambitions.

And my New Zealand Oxford Dictionary says, "An extraordinarily effective public figure, Bell stood above party strife, supporting the public good and individual liberty and welfare." He opposed the Balfour Report leading to the Statute of Westminster in 1931.

More generally he was actively involved in the affairs of Samoa, president of the Wellington Rugby Football Union and the Wellington Racing Club, a freemason for over 60 years, and the owner of a very forceful personality. Called ‘many-sided’ he could be an arrogant bully or a generous mentor and philanthropist.

Also from te ara encyclopedia (which is not updated online from its 1966 version) Bell's aloofness from party strife, his Roman sense of responsibility and his magnanimous approach to public issues – qualities which may have owed something to the Jewish and Quaker elements in his background – entitle him to the rank of statesman. He was appointed a KCMG in 1915, a GCMG in 1923 and a privy counsellor in 1926. He may also be regarded as the supreme example of a tory radical in New Zealand politics.
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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: Jewish PMs in New Zealand   Fri 13 Apr 2012, 00:48

The wikimisleadia entry has spawned other occurrences of Mr Lewis - but as you say, he seems to be mythical. I think we are still waiting for our second Jewish PM - and I just hope we go on waiting, as the obvious candidates are the Band of Millies.
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PostSubject: Re: Jewish PMs in New Zealand   Fri 13 Apr 2012, 03:07

I usually find Wikipedia fairly accurate with facts like that, though. It's quite odd. Anyway, onto John Key.

John Key is our present PM. His mother was living in her birthplace of Austria when it was annexed by the Nazis. Her aunt escaped to Britain and paid a soldier to marry her in a registry office. They left the registry office after the wedding and never saw each other again. (Wonder what happened to him.) But it allowed her to bring the other family members over and one was John Key’s mother, Ruth Lazar, who arrived in 1939 aged 17. She married a British divorcé and they came to New Zealand. He died in 1969 and she brought the three children of the marriage up on her own in a state house, no doubt with solo parent benefits, which makes his cuts to such services seem ungrateful. She did not practice her faith while the children were young, but took it up later.

John Key, always keen to be one of the common people despite his multi-millionaire status from success as a foreign exchange dealer – or what my husband calls gambling, (he’s the wealthiest MP in our Parliament) goes to church fairly regularly but is agnostic as to belief in god apparently. (Bit difficult trying to be all things to all people.)

He has been leader of his National Party since 2006 and PM since 2008, so far winning two elections, and with little sign of his incredible popularity waning. He has a lot of charm and woos people quite openly. But what his substance is is a little harder to see. Sometimes known as the ‘smiling assassin’ for his ability to impose cuts and lay off workers with his usual cheerfulness.

A long Sunday Star feature about him in 2008 said "But Key managed to make himself appear relatively inoffensive to the widest possible number of people. Perhaps this makes him bland, indeed, one former trader describes him as "a bit of a clone".

He is likely, too, to have gained an extra layer of blankness from his training as a trader. Traders must learn the art of the poker face, to show no emotion even in extreme situations, and to guard their inner self. The only tangible sense in which Key asserted a persona of his own was in his accent. "We sometimes felt he would lay on his Kiwi accent so thick in meetings that none of us could understand what he was saying it was kind of deliberate," says Kelly. [No so, I think. People still criticise his strong Kiwi accent, which can sound a bit muffled at times.]

And unlike many of the high-earning young men in banking, Key was not known to indulge in any vices such as visits to London's racier quarters. At least some of this impeccable behaviour may have been due to the knowledge that one day, what was off-stage would be on public show.

"I always had a long-term view of going into politics, so I suppose I was always careful," says Key. "I mean, I got offered all these rinky dink tax deals, but I always paid my taxes. I am naturally quite conservative." Safe and bland perhaps, but the very fact of Key's survival and success in investment banking suggests he is tough. It is a competitive and brutal business, in which the weak are kicked out early."

John Key is not on the side of politics that I support, so this is not a totally unbiased account. And he's too recent to be in any of my books, so this is taken from newspaper accounts and wikipedia. Only a little from my own knowledge - our southern newspapers don't go in for biographical features of political or celebrity figures and I don't read women's magazines.
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PostSubject: Re: Jewish PMs in New Zealand   Fri 13 Apr 2012, 10:44

Key the Clone - sounds hideously like he came from the same Brave New World Bokonovsky group as Blair/Cameron/Clegg etc. Enough to drive one to drink - if it weren't for the fact I'm there already .....
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PostSubject: Re: Jewish PMs in New Zealand   Tue 24 Apr 2012, 05:57

I don't see Ian around at the moment but he asked for this, so he has got it.

I’ve tried to look for Jews or people of Jewish descent who have been Prime Ministers in the countries people from this board come from or are living in, but it has proved difficult. Partly because not all countries have prime ministers as their main politician so perhaps presidents and governors-general should be included. I expected there to be lots of British ones, but there only seems to be Benjamin Disraeli. You will all know more about Disraeli than me, but here goes anyway.



Disraeli (1804 – 1881) became PM under a Conservative government in 1868 which was soon defeated but he was again PM from 1874 – 80. He had imperialist policies and brought India directly under the Crown, conferring the title of Empress of India on the Queen, and purchased control of the Suez Canal. His government undertook some social reforms, especially slum clearances under the Artisans’ Dwelling Act. He also wrote novels (how do so many PMs have the time to write books?) – Vivian Grey being the best known. He was witty and popular with Queen Victoria. He was made Earl of Beaconsfield.

Australia has not had a Jewish PM, but Isaac Isaacs was governor-general from 1931 and was the first Australian-born g-g. His father was Russian-Polish and his mother a Londoner. Was a High Court Judge and had some knowledge of at least 6 languages. He had a very strong personality and was not popular in Parliament or often with his fellow judges. He was appointed governor-general to great controversy and against the wishes of George V. However by the end of his tenure the Australian Dictionary of Biography said, "By the time he retired on 23 January 1936 it was generally acknowledged that he had served as governor-general during harsh depression years with dignity and distinction. He had voluntarily surrendered one-quarter of his salary and declined to take his retired judge's pension while he held office."

And John Monash was leader of the Australian troops in WWI. He was one of the people who most strongly recommended Isaac Isaacs for GG. He commanded the 4th Infantry Brigade through Gallipoli and in 1918 became commander of the Australian Corps. He was an active Zionist.

Norway – the nearest person to fit in Norway is Jo Benkow, who was president (or Speaker) of the Storting (Parliament) from 1985 – 93. This is apparently considered the second most important political position below the king, but the Prime Minister is leader de facto. He was born Josef Benkowitz and his father was a Russian émigré in Norway. In 1942, aged 18, he fled into Sweden and then the UK and served in the Royal Norwegian Air Force. On his return to Norway he took up photography as a trade before making his way in politics.

Denmark - I can’t see any prominent Danish politicians who are Jewish. (Families might have integrated over the centuries.)

Greece - I don’t think there have been any Jewish leaders of the Greek Parliament in modern times.

France – Leon Blum became PM in 1936 and is called the first Jewish PM in modern times (they didn’t count Disraeli as having had a Christian baptism, and presumably not Julius Vogel for similar reasons). He was the the first socialist prime minister of France, and his times as PM were brief and frequent, again in 1938 and in 1946. In the meantime he was imprisoned by the Vichy government and released by the Allies in 1945. Pierre Mendes-France 1954-5. Also imprisoned by the Vicky govt but escaped. He became premier on the pledge that he would end France’s involvement in the Indochina war within 30 days. An armistice line was drawn between the two parts of Vietnam. His policies were generally not very popular, because of their austerity measures and economic-reform programmes and for accepting the British plan for German rearmament in his second term.

I can't imagine there have been Jewish leaders of Arab/Muslim states! Not in recent times.

This is all the same size in my Word Pad but not here. Sorry.

 
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