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.


Sir Ger­ald Kauf­man

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