BY Peter Diamond | September 28 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

2 - ANDY KERR

Labour leader seeks to reassure Catholics as senior official steps down after anti-Catholic remark

Richard Leonard said he wants to reassure Scotland’s Catholic community that he will challenge sectarianism as Scottish Labour leader, and 'that is the culture I expect within the Scottish Labour party.'

THE chair of the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee has stepped down from his post following an anti-Catholic remark directed towards a woman at the annual party conference in Liverpool last weekend.

The Labour Party said that the resignation by Andy Kerr is unrelated and was already planned before he openly mocked a member of the audience.

Scottish Labour’s leader Richard Leonard has now sought to ‘reassure the Catholic community’ in comments to the SCO, saying there is ‘absolutely no room’ inside the party for the kind of remark made by Mr Kerr.

The union official was speaking from the stage on Sunday when he invited a question from a female delegate.

He then appeared to mock her for crossing herself, saying: “Did you cross yourself, there? In that case, I might not.”

Mr Kerr, originally from Ayrshire and a deputy general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, later apologised and said the remark was intended to be ‘light-hearted’ but was ‘ill-judged and wrong.’

A spokesman for the Church said: “The comment by Mr Kerr was ill judged and inappropriate.

“Fortunately he has apologised unreservedly, recognising that such casual slurs on Catholic practice are not acceptable.”

The anti-Catholic remark from Mr Kerr has prompted criticism from across the political spectrum, including from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Several Labour politicians, speaking off the record, have told of their shock at the comments, which were also criticised by the Catholics for Labour group.

“At a time when religious tensions are high within the party a comment like this was foolish at best, divisive at worst,” the group said.

“While we welcome and accept Andy’s apology, 100 Labour Catholics took part in the conference Mass tonight. We need to show them, and all people of Faith, that they belong to this party.

“We can never normalise ridiculing anyone on the basis of their religion—we are a party for the many, not the few.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard condemned the slur by Mr Kerr, whose son Matt is a Glasgow City councillor for Cardonald.

MSP Mr Leonard told the SCO: “I unequivocally condemn these comments. There is absolutely no room inside the Labour Party for that kind of remark, whether it’s meant as a form of humour or not.

“It’s completely unacceptable and Andy Kerr has unreservedly apologised for the remark that he made.

“There should be no space for sectarianism in our society, and we all have a duty to challenge it. I want to reassure Scotland’s Catholic community that is what I will do as Scottish Labour leader, and that is the culture I expect within the Scottish Labour party.”

Previously, the SNP said Mr Kerr should not continue in his current position in the party.

A party spokeswoman said: “Sectarianism is an extremely serious issue and it is important that Labour treats it as such. It is untenable for Andy Kerr to continue as chairman of Labour’s NEC—he should go as a matter of urgency.

“Labour is developing a bad habit of trying to brush this kind of behaviour under the rug.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called for cross-party condemnation of Mr Kerr’s comment.

She tweeted: “Andy Kerr’s comment was appalling. The Catholic community is an integral and valued part of Scottish life. Everyone who stands for a Scotland where bigotry and sectarianism have no place, and where we positively embrace diversity, must unite to condemn—regardless of party.”

Scottish Labour confirmed that Mr Andy Kerr was standing down as chair of Labour’s NEC and insisted that it was always the case that was going to happen as each year someone else is nominated to take the position.

 

 

 

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