The LGBT+ arm of the Labour Party demanded Monday afternoon (5 April) an apology from leader Keir Starmer for visiting an infamously anti-LGBT+ church.
LGBT+ Labour wrote in a statement that Starmer’s failure to apologise for his visit to Jesus House, a London-based church with a troubling track record on LGBT+ rights, has “damaged” its trust in his leadership.
The trip, the opposition’s office told LGBT+ Labour’s members, had not been properly “researched” – if it had, it “never” would have gone ahead, it is understood.
But as much as office officials stressed that Starmer’s support in LGBT+ rights is “unwavering”, a social media video of the visit has not been taken down – even when LGBT+ Labour gave them the time to do.
“Regrettably, they chose not to take up that opportunity,” it said.
“As a bare minimum, the video should be deleted and a public apology made by the leader of the opposition,” LGBT+ Labour added.
“The Labour Party has a proud history on LGBT+ rights, but history is not enough. We all still believe that the surest way to achieve LGBT+ equality is through the Labour Party, but the events of the last few days have set that cause back.
“The party has work to do to regain our trust and the trust of the LGBT+ community at large.”
Keir Starmer visiting anti-LGBT+ church ‘undermines‘ the party’s ‘credibility’
Shadow cabinet minister Rachel Reeves’ tepid reasoning for the visit – that Keir Starmer visited it not as a place of worship, but its pop-up vaccination centre – also did little to soothe the concerns among LGBT+ Labour, the statement explained.
Nor did her reaffirming the party’s support for queer rights, such as the party’s commitment to banning conversion therapy.
“We are absolutely clear that this attempt to justify the visit is unacceptable and displayed a disregard for the LGBT+ community,” LGBT+ Labour wrote in its statement.
“As a result, our own trust in the leader of the opposition, and the party more widely, has been damaged.
“This video has hurt members of our community. Conversion therapy is an abhorrent practice, a form of torture, and the party’s commitment to the ban [is] welcome – but actions peak louder than words.
“The Labour Party cannot in one breath talk about banning conversion therapy and praise the actions of those associated with it in the next – it undermines the credibility of their commitment to LGBT+ equality.”
The statement was an about-turn from the wing’s previous public comment, where it said it had received a private “unreserved apology” – it being out-of-sight hobbled Starmer’s once “unwavering” support of LGBT+ rights, the group now explained.
Indeed, LGBT+ Labour said how the opposition’s office told them that “research had mistakenly not been carried out in advance of the trip”.
“They told us that the visit would not have gone ahead had the research been done and received an unreserved apology.
“We believed them when they said there had been a genuine mistake, rather than a deliberate intent to cause harm, offence or hurt, or to disregard the party’s commitment to LGBT+ equality – particularly to banning conversion therapy.”
The visit came to act almost as a bellwether of Keir Starmer’s shaky relationship with the LGBT+ community one year on since his landslide win in the Labour leadership race. One defined by outspoken opposition to some issues, and silence for others.