Starmer criticised by LGBT+ campaigners for controversial church visit

Gavin Cordon, PA Whitehall Editor
·2-min read

Sir Keir Starmer has come under fire after he visited a church which has been widely criticised for its attitudes towards homosexuality.

The Labour Campaign for LGBT+ Rights said it was “unacceptable” after the party leader posted a video online highlighting his visit on Friday to the Jesus House in Brent Cross in north London.

After raising it with the leader’s office, the group said that it had received an “unreserved apology” and would be holding a further meeting to ensure it did not happen again.

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In the video, Sir Keir praised Jesus House as a “wonderful example” of a church serving its community during the coronavirus pandemic – including acting as a vaccination centre.

“From rolling out the vaccine to running the local food bank, Jesus House, like many other churches across the UK, has played a crucial role in meeting the needs of the community,” he said.

The church’s senior pastor, Agu Irukwu, has previously attracted controversy for his comments on LGBT+ rights – having spoken out against same sex marriage and equality legislation.

In 2017, Theresa May was criticised when she visited the church, although Boris Johnson and the Prince of Wales have both been to the pop-up vaccination centre there in recent weeks without attracting widespread comment.

Labour sources said Sir Keir’s visit was also focused on the vaccination centre – although the video did show him apparently praying with the pastor.

A Labour spokeswoman said the party was “unwavering” in its support for the LGBT+ community.

In a statement, the Labour Campaign for LGBT+ Rights said: “The visit was unacceptable and we made this clear to LOTO (the Leader of the Opposition’s office).

“We received an unreserved apology, and will be urgently meeting with them next week to ensure this does not happen again and that LGBT+ equality is embedded in everything that Labour does.”