Anger over Kaufman's role in tribute to Wilson
THE Labour Party is pulling out all the stops to mark the centenary of former Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s birth in March.
But not everyone is so enthusiastic about the celebrations, which will include a lunch in Speaker’s House, a lecture in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, and a ceremony in Politician’s Corner in Westminster Abbey.
Lady Cocks, the founder of Labour Friends Of Israel, of which Wilson (pictured right) was president for many years, is angry that the veteran Labour MP Sir Gerald Kaufman has been asked to join the centenary organising committee despite the Father Of The House expressing virulently anti-Israel views.
Only four months ago, there were calls for Sir Gerald, who is Jewish himself, to resign, after he claimed ‘Jewish money’ dictates Conservative government policy, and that Israel fabricated the recent stabbings in the country. Leader Jeremy Corbyn called the MP’s remarks ‘completely unacceptable’.
Sir Gerald has form when it comes to his outspoken views on the Middle East. In 2013, he wrote a blog for the Huffington Post, in which he called Israel a ‘rogue state which commits
war crimes’. Valerie Cocks, who visits Harold Wilson’s 100-year- old widow Mary every week, tells me: ‘Harold, the president of Labour Friends Of Israel all the time I was running it, and totally dedicated to Israel, would never have agreed with any of the vitriolic comments he [Kaufman] is making on the subject.’
The widow of former Labour Party chief whip Michael Cocks has told friends she is so indignant that she may boycott the celebrations.
Sir Gerald, 85, was the press secretary to Wilson and was chosen to help organise the centenary events because he is so knowledgeable about the former Labour PM’s life.
He is joined on the centenary organising committee by Wilson’s two sons, Robin and Giles; historian Lord Hennessy; film producer Lord Puttnam; Knowsley MP George Howarth; and Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman. Sheerman has been lobbying for a £100,000 statue of Wilson to be erected in the Houses of Parliament, but the Speaker’s Arts Committee has twice knocked him back.
‘We will crowdfund it if we have to,’ says Sheerman.