Featherstone denies snubbing local HMD ceremony

By Sandy Rashty, January 31, 2013

A political row is raging over the non-appearance of International Development minister Lynne Featherstone at the annual Holocaust Memorial Day event in her constituency.

The Jewish Hornsey and Wood Green Lib-Dem MP says she was not notified of the ceremony.

But Jewish Labour councillor Sheila Peacock — who chairs Haringey’s Holocaust committee and has organised the local commemoration for 12 years — insisted that invitations had been sent out on both December 4 and January 22. “She’s blaming everyone else but herself. I don’t understand why she didn’t attend as she has come to previous HMD events.”

In a Twitter exchange with another Labour councillor, Claire Kober, Ms Featherstone maintained that she had not been informed of the ceremony, “so I did not RSVP — and no one called to check/ follow up”.

She said afterwards that she was “terribly upset to have missed the event. Had the further information been safely received, I would have attended — as I have done in previous years. I have spoken to the council officer and suggested arrangements to ensure this does not happen again.”

The organisers had expected Ms Featherstone to read a poem at the Bruce Castle Museum ceremony. Local Lib-Dem councillor Richard Wilson — another anticipated contributor — also did not attend.

“Sadly, I never received an invitation to speak until a few days before the event,” he said. “Even then, the invitation didn’t mention the words ‘Holocaust’ or ‘memorial’ so I had no idea what the invitation was for. This is a great shame as it would have been a huge honour to have read a poem at the event. I’ve asked council officers to make sure they let my office know about next year’s memorial event well in advance, particularly if they would like me to speak.”

Noting that “Lynne has supported the event in the past”, Highgate Synagogue rabbi Nicky Liss added: “Whatever the reason, it was very disappointing that she wasn’t there — especially in the light of the recent comments by David Ward [the Lib-Dem MP who blogged that Jews had not learned the lessons of the Holocaust, given Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians].”

Brent’s HMD event was not attended by local Lib-Dem MP Sarah Teather, whose spokesperson said the absence was for “personal” reasons.

Last updated: 6:06pm, January 31 2013