Kaufman was an icon, says Corbyn


Sir Gerald Kaufman, Britain’s oldest and longest-serving Jewish MP, died on Sunday at the age of 86.

A controversial figure within the community, Sir Gerald was a long-standing critic of Israel who was repeatedly criticised in turn for making antisemitic comments.

Born in Leeds, he represented two Manchester constituencies from 1970 until his death, and had been Father of the House of Commons for the past two years.

In a statement, his family said: “Sir Gerald had been suffering from a long-term illness for several months but, in that time, remained firmly committed to, and focused on, the activities and wellbeing of his beloved constituency, which he had served since first elected in 1970.

“Sir Gerald dedicated his life to serving those who he believed would benefit most from a Labour government and Labour values in action.”

Tony Blair said Sir Gerald was “an extraordinary man, passionate, principled, acerbic” and regular lunch partner of the former Prime Minister.

Jeremy Corbyn also paid tribute to his colleague, describing him as an “iconic and irascible figure”.

“Gerald was always a prominent figure in the party and in Parliament, with his dandy clothes and wonderful demeanour in speaking.

“Gerald came from a proud Jewish background. He always wanted to bring peace to the Middle East and it was my pleasure to travel with him to many countries.

“He loved life and politics. I will deeply miss him, both for his political commitment and constant friendship.”

A Jewish Labour Movement spokesperson said: “Baruch Dayan Ha’Emet. We wish his family sincere condolences and a ‘long life’.” The spokesperson also noted Sir Gerald was a former member of Poale Zion, the forerunner to the JLM.

After graduating from Oxford with a degree in politics, philosophy and economics, Sir Gerald became a journalist and satirist before entering Parliament. He enjoyed the heyday of his political career in the 1980s and 1990s, serving as Shadow Home Secretary and Shadow Foreign Secretary under the leadership of Neil Kinnock.

It was his comments about his fellow Jews that brought the greatest anger from the community.

In 2011, Sir Gerald turned to a neighbour on the Commons green benches as pro-Israel MP Louise Ellman rose to speak, and muttered: “Here we are, the Jews again”. He initially said he did not remember making the comment, before later apologising “if any remarks I made in the chamber caused offence”.

Two years ago, he was recorded at a pro-Palestinian event claiming the British government was under the influence of “Jewish money” and suggesting Israel had “fabricated” a series of terror attacks in order to allow it to “execute Palestinians”.

Mr Corbyn said the antisemitic elements of Sir Gerald’s comments were “completely unacceptable and deeply regrettable” but took no disciplinary action against his MP.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive