MP sorry for saying Jewish envoy 'disloyal' to UK

EXCLUSIVE


The Labour MP Paul Flynn has apologised for questioning the loyalty of the British ambassador to Israel because he is Jewish.

Mr Flynn said: "Clumsily expressed remarks of mine have caused anger and upset.

"I greatly regret the interpretation that has been placed on them and I fully understand why offence was given. Some of the interpretations of these words were exaggerated suggesting malign intent that was never present or intended. Inference was built on inference.

"My friend Robert Halfon absolved me of the charge of antisemitism but said that my remarks could imply an unacceptable prejudice. On reflection, it is clear that Robert's criticism is fair.

"Other greatly respected friends have urged me to withdraw the remarks and apologise. This I am happy to do.

"There is no reason that anyone of any race or religion should be debarred from public office. That has always been my opinion. The comments were made in a heated exchange in a select committee discussion on probable warmongering. Other information received contradicts criticism I quoted on the conduct of our ambassador. I regret any offence caused. However, I will continue to press for a full legitimate inquiry by Sir Phillip Mawer into the Fox-Werritty conduct.

"The issue raised is of supreme importance. The UK is stumbling towards a war in Iran that could have dreadful unforeseeable consequences. History proves that in the past the momentum of preparations for war frequently leads to war. I continue to urge the Government to seek to reduce tension, pursue conflict resolution and cease war preparations.

"The two greatest errors of my 25 years in parliament were joining Bush's war in Iraq and the incursion into Helmand. They resulted in 569 British deaths with little gained. Are we about to commit another blunder? A war in Iran could cost us dearly in blood and treasure.

"I have been an elected representative for the past 40 years and I do not have an atom of racism or antisemitism in me. If there was someone would have noticed by now. Most of the comments received were polite and reasonable. Others sought to shoot the messenger. It's the message that's crucial. War must be avoided."

A spokeswoman for the Labour Party said the chief whip had spoken to Mr Flynn. "He has recognised that his remarks were unacceptable," she said. "He has withdrawn them and apologised."

More to follow

Last updated: 1:13pm, December 8 2011