Labour Party leader Keir Starmer apologised Monday evening (5 April) for visiting an anti-LGBT+ church called Jesus House and the response was, well, mixed.
The apology tweet, sent at 9:09pm three days after the visit to London’s Jesus House, affirmed Starmer’s support for queer rights as he distanced himself from the church’s controversial beliefs. It is led by pastor Agu Iruku, who has written about his opposition to equality legislation and gay marriage in the past.
I completely disagree with Jesus House’s beliefs on LGBT+ rights, which I was not aware of before my visit. I apologise for the hurt my visit caused and have taken down the video. It was a mistake and I accept that.
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) April 5, 2021
“I apologise for the hurt my visit caused and have taken down the video. It was a mistake and I accept that.”
For his party’s LGBT+ members, activists and fellow lawmakers, though, it was a grab bag of emotions. Relief and wariness towards a statement that some felt was too-little-too-late, while others saw it as nothing other than a copybook apology – for a politician, that is.
But for many, the days-long wait for the apology was a tender trigger point.
“That might help.”
Labour shadow cabinet minister Rachel Reeves’ earlier justification for the trip – that Starmer visited not the place of worship, but its pop-up vaccination centre – also left some users irritated.
“This is a genuinely welcome apology,” Guardian journalist Owen Jones said.
“But why on earth did it take three days and why did Rachel Reeves falsely claim on national television that it was just a vaccination site visit, rather than the centrepiece of Labour’s Easter video[?]”
LGBT+ people welcome Keir Starmer apology – but wonder why it took three days to come
These mixed emotions were all too common, with users as well as LGBT+ Labour member blocs both praising the politician for apologising, but at the same time wondering why it took days to do so and why operation staffers did not properly brief Keir Starmer in the first place.
Other users called on Starmer to do more than send out a tweet – he must, they said, prove his support by donating to queer charities.
Thank you @KeirStarmer. We are pleased that you have recognised and apologised for this mistake. We look forward to working with you to end conversion therapy and achieve equality for LGBT+ people. https://t.co/kG1gkYS1vY
— LGBT+ Labour (@LGBTLabour) April 5, 2021
We welcome this apology, but it’s too little too late for the many talented activists who’ve left Labour over the past few days
Sadly, this is only the most recent of ongoing failures of party leadership for LGBT+ people
We’ll continue to fight for a party that stands up for us https://t.co/Nh5cOPQUtN
— Labour LGBT+ Coalition (@labour_lgbt) April 5, 2021
This is a welcome apology, despite it being very late
Labour have a lot of work to do to start regaining the community’s trust that has been eroded over the past couple of years (especially the past 12 months)
The support of the LGBT+ community can not just be taken for granted https://t.co/6ObNvpuTov
— Labour Party LGBT+ Network (@LPLGBTNetwork) April 6, 2021
Politician makes massive mistake.
Politician apologises and accepts it.
Not here. Well done for putting your hands up. https://t.co/UDegQsQ6MO
— Otto English (@Otto_English) April 5, 2021
Good to see a politician holding up their hands and admitting a mistake, even if it took a bit of time. https://t.co/3gcm1EDK0e
— David Schneider (@davidschneider) April 5, 2021
It took till 9.30 pm on a bank holiday Monday. Fucking forensic https://t.co/xao2VIuZdh
— Miltos Yerolemou (@miltosyerolemou) April 5, 2021
good. but this should’ve been out on Saturday. a lot of shit went visibly wrong this weekend – on the vetting side; briefing shad ministers but not replying to Lab staff; the delay on this letting the story drag on – that shows the leader’s office is seriously lacking right now. https://t.co/oYu5xMnTrx
— tyron, the creator (@TyronWilson) April 5, 2021
We have a list of charities you can personally donate to, there are anti-conversion campaigns you can give power to, there is work you can do in and outside The Labour Party – deleting a tweet isn’t it. https://t.co/BROCYYQU9z
— Scottee (@ScotteeIsFat) April 5, 2021
The statement appeared to confirm a previous account issued by the queer arm of the party, LGBT+ Labour, that Keir Starmer’s office did not research the church in advance of the trip.
If they had, they told LGBT+ Labour, it would never have gone ahead.
Indeed, if dutifully researched, opposition office officials would have known that Jesus House, part of the wider international Redeemed Christian Church of God network, has a deeply troubling track record with LGBT+ rights.
Not only has the pentecostal denomination been accused of carrying out “exorcisms” on people who are “sexually attracted to members of their own sex”, but the church’s top pastor has furiously opposed anti-discrimination laws and marriage equality in Britain.
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