Sir Ger­ald Kauf­man

Mav­er­ick Labour MP who de­scribed Is­rael as a “pariah state”

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - Sir Ger­ald Kauf­man: born June 21, 1930. Died Fe­bru­ary 26, 2017

VET­ERAN MP Ger­ald Kauf­man, who has died aged 86, stoked up more than his 47 years as Bri­tain’s long­est serv­ing MP. His in­cen­di­ary view of Is­rael as a “pariah state” in­fu­ri­ated Jewish lead­ers. Kauf­man — who pro­nounced his name Korf­man — com­pared Is­rael’s mil­i­tary re­sponse to Pales­tini­ans to that of the Nazis who drove his own fam­ily out of Poland. In 2012, he said: “I find it de­grad­ing that the suf­fer­ings of Jews in the Holo­caust should be used as a kind of jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for per­se­cut­ing Pales­tini­ans.” Yet as An­glo-Jewry seethed, he re­mained un­fazed.

A dap­per fig­ure in pas­tel or broad, pin-striped suits, Kauf­man had not al­ways run against the Jewish grain. In his younger days, he joined the Jewish Labour move­ment (Poale Zion) and, in the early 1970s, he was a close friend of for­mer JC ed­i­tor Wil­liam Frankel, even celebrating a fam­ily Seder night with him.

Born in Leeds, the youngest of the seven chil­dren of Pol­ish-Jewish refugees Louis and Jane Kauf­man, he won a schol­ar­ship to Leeds Gram­mar School, and grad­u­ated from Queens Col­lege, Ox­ford, with a de­gree in phi­los­o­phy, pol­i­tics and eco­nom­ics.

Between 1954-55 he was general sec­re­tary of the Fabian So­ci­ety. A so­cial­ist from his early days, he chaired the Univer­sity Labour Club, but, as a Labour can­di­date, he failed to take Harold Macmil­lan’s Brom­ley seat in the 1955 General Elec­tion, nor Gilling­ham four years later. He turned to jour­nal­ism, first as a leader writer on the Daily Mir­ror, un­til 1964, then on the New States­man, edited by Richard Cross­man.

In 1965, he be­came Labour’s par­lia­men­tary press li­ai­son of­fi­cer, then po­lit­i­cal press of­fi­cer and speech writer in Prime Min­is­ter Harold Wil­son’s “kitchen cab­i­net.”

In the early 1960s, he contributed to the BBC’s land­mark po­lit­i­cal satire That Was the Week That Was. With Labour out of power at his per­sonal peak, he never achieved full cab­i­net rank. Col­leagues who found him “un­club­bable” also con­sid­ered his anti-Is­rael views would have made him an awk­ward fig­ure at the For­eign Of­fice.

His books in­cluded the ir­rev­er­ent How to be a Min­is­ter in 1980, and Meet Me in St Louis, ref­er­enc­ing Judy Gar­land’s 1944 film, and he chaired the Booker Prize in 1999. A cinema fan since his child­hood, his mem­oir My Life in the Sil­ver Screen was pub­lished in 1985.

Kauf­man was elected MP for Manch­ester Ard­wick at the 1970 General Elec­tion. He was a ju­nior min­is­ter in the Depart­ment of the En­vi­ron­ment in the 1974-9 Wil­son govern­ment, fol­lowed by In­dus­try, where he even­tu­ally be­came Min­is­ter of State. He held shadow po­si­tions un­der suc­ces­sive lead­ers.

Kauf­man switched to the safe Manch­ester Gor­ton seat in the 1983 elec­tion fol­low­ing boundary changes. Re­elected to the Com­mons in 2015,with a 24,000 ma­jor­ity he be­came Fa­ther of the House, hold­ing his seat un­til he died.

Kauf­man op­posed fox-hunt­ing and faced an­ti­semitic taunts in 2004 from pro-hunt­ing lob­by­ists, while be­ing la­belled a self-hat­ing Jew at the same time. He was knighted that year for ser­vices to Par­lia­ment.

He de­fied the Party whip on July 20, 2015, with 48 other Labour MPs, vot­ing against the govern­ment’s Wel­fare Re­form Bill, with its mas­sive cuts.

He re­luc­tantly sup­ported Tony Blair on the 2003 in­va­sion of Iraq, and fell foul of the 2008 ex­penses scan­dal, hav­ing sub­mit­ted a £8,000 claim for a TV set.

His per­sonal Jewish beliefs were unswerv­ing. In 2012, he helped re­ject a pro­posed bill forc­ing kosher meat to be la­belled “killed with­out stun­ning.” “I am an Or­tho­dox Jew and I was brought up in a house­hold where only kosher meat was eaten,” he said, adding: “Large num­bers of Jews would be very greatly dis­tressed if (this bill) were to be­come law.” A fam­ily state­ment on his death con­tained a veiled warn­ing to Labour: It said Kauf­man be­lieved “pol­icy and prin­ci­ple with­out power were sim­ply not enough to de­liver the bet­ter life that he fought for on be­half of his con­stituents for most 50 years.”

He did not marry and is sur­vived by two nieces and four neph­ews. GLO­RIA TESSLER

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

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