David Cairns MP: A brilliant advocate

I had the pleasure of meeting David Cairns shortly before his tragic death. We had been brought together to discuss what we both believed was an over-defensive attitude to Israel among its supporters on the left. David was a brilliant advocate for Israel and determined to provide a space for debate for those within the Labour Party, grown weary of the constant attacks. His determination to make the case for Israel in the Commons gave other, more timid MPs the cover they needed to express their support.

He was respected across the political divide and I was looking forward to working with him on the campaign to promote the progressive case for Israel.

For David, Israel was always a social democratic project rooted in left-of-centre principles. And in the final, passionate speech he wrote for LFI (which was delivered for him by his colleague John Woodcock because he was so ill) he provided a powerful list of examples to illustrate his case. He cited equality for women, freedom for gay and lesbian Israelis, an independent judiciary, a vibrant media, well-organised trade unions, a strong welfare state and protection for religious minorities. There is no other state in the region that can boast such a list, even after the Arab Spring.

As he said in that last speech: "It is not... progressive to ally one's self with those that seek Israel's destruction, or those who don't value one iota the type of society we strive for in this country."

Last updated: 1:57pm, May 12 2011