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Articles about ‘Labour Party’

My Reflections on Gerald Kaufman. Rest in Peace

Sad to hear of the death of my colleague Gerald Kaufman, the longest serving MP in this Parliament. The quantity and breadth of tributes to him have underlined the huge mark he made made in the Labour Party, in the House of Commons and to British politics as a whole.  


I got to know Gerald through our shared commitment to the cause of justice for the Palestinians. Gerald was a a proud Jew and a Zionist who passionately believed in the creation of an Israel living in peace with its neighbours and one which embodied the social democratic principles he held dear throughout his life. He would often talk of the conversations he had in the 60s with Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban. Yet those same principles meant Gerald always believed Palestinians have no fewer rights to self-determination than Israelis have. It was those same principles that motivated the anger he felt about how the policies of successive Israeli Governments have systematically prevented those rights being realised.


To say he was outspoken in his criticism of the Governments of Sharon, Barak, Olmert and, most recently, Netanyahu would be the understatement to end all understatements. In recent years, some of the language he used to express that anger crossed a line between criticism of Israel and what sounded like criticism of Jews more generally, prompting allegations of antisemitism. That line should never be crossed, even inadvertently, and Gerald should not have crossed it. However, I cannot accept that this son of Polish immigrants who lost family members in the Holocaust was ever motivated by antisemitism. Indeed, it was both his own Jewishness and his own Zionism that made the anger he felt towards what he thought Israel had become so profound and so personal. 


My abiding memory of Gerald is, however, a much lighter one than any of this. The first conversation I remember Gerald having with me took place a few weeks after my election to Parliament in 1992. Gerald came up to me in the Lobby of the House of Commons. He asked “How are you settling in?”, “Oh fine” I replied, trying to cover up the confusion I was feeling about the many eccentricities about the way Parliament seemed to operate. “Mmmm” replied Gerald in those slow, deliberative tones for which he was famous. “There are two things you will always need to remember about this place. The first is that real life is out there, not in here,” he said, pointing to the exit. “The second is…” – he paused and then went on “that everyone here is mad. That includes me and, if it doesn’t already include you, it soon will.”  


He was certainly right about where real life is. As for his second point, I could not possibly comment! Rest in peace Gerald.

Brexit – It’s not about if, but how

high_court_2423851bLet’s get one thing straight at the start. Thursday’s High Court decision did not change or overrule the result of June’s Referendum which voted for Britain to leave the European Union.  I know that claiming something else makes for more lurid tabloid headlines but it is a fact.

The High Court decision is about who should have a say in how Britain should go about leaving the European Union, not whether we should do so. The judges expressed no opinion on whether Brexit is a good idea or a bad one. That is not down to judges to decide that anyway.  And nobody – on either side – asked them to do so. Read more

Understanding the new world we are in

Three weeks ago it all felt so different. Britain had not yet voted to leave the European Union. The Pound had not plummeted. The Bank of England had not yet had to step in to steady the situation. The Prime Minister had not announced his resignation and the UK’s major political parties had yet not appeared to be in turmoil.

None of us have lived through anything quite like this before and nobody can know what lies ahead. As we now try to navigate a new course through the uncharted waters which lie ahead, though, here are some markers that I believe should guide us.

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