Sir Keir Starmer apologises for visit to church criticised for LGBT stance

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer during a visit to the Leeds United Foundation at Elland Road in Leeds.Image source, PA Media

Sir Keir Starmer has apologised after visiting a church which has been criticised for its stance towards homosexuality.

The Labour leader visited Jesus House in London on Good Friday and later shared a video from his visit online.

But after a backlash including from his party's LGBT+ members, Sir Keir called it a mistake and deleted the clip.

He said he "completely" disagreed with the church's views on LGBT+ rights and was not aware of them beforehand.

"I apologise for the hurt my visit caused and have taken down the video," he said. "It was a mistake and I accept that."

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Jesus House for All The Nations church is in Brent, north London, and is part of the Redeemed Christian Church of God denomination. It has recently opened up part of its premises as a vaccination centre.

The church's senior pastor, Agu Irukwu, has previously been criticised after speaking out against same-sex marriage and equality laws.

Following Sir Keir's visit, the LGBT+ Labour group called it "unacceptable" and said they had contacted Sir Keir to ask for an apology. It said the church was known for its "broadly anti-LGBT+ views".

However the group said it believed the explanation that it was a "genuine mistake" where "research had mistakenly not been carried out in advance of the visit".

After Sir Keir apologised, the group tweeted their thanks and added: "We are pleased that you have recognised and apologised for this mistake. We look forward to working with you to end conversion therapy and achieve equality for LGBT+ people."

Sir Keir is not the only public figure to have visited the church. Boris Johnson and the Prince of Wales have both been to the pop-up vaccination centre there in recent weeks without attracting widespread comment - although Mr Johnson did face criticism when he visited as mayor in 2009.

Image source, Ian Vogler/Daily Mirror/PA Media
Image caption,
Pastor Agu Irukwu, right, has hosted visits from other public figures

In 2017, Theresa May was criticised for visiting the church and meeting with the pastor.