The leader of the Labour Party has apologised for the “hurt” caused by his visit to a church which has been widely criticised for its attitudes towards homosexuality.
Sir Keir Starmer came in for criticism from within his own party after he posted a video online highlighting his visit on Friday to Jesus House for All The Nations church in Brent, north London.
He tweeted on Monday that he accepted it was a “mistake” to visit the church, which has opened its premises up as a vaccination centre, but stressed he was “not aware” of the establishment’s views on gay rights.
“I completely disagree with Jesus House’s beliefs on LGBT+ rights, which I was not aware of before my visit,” the leader of the Opposition tweeted.
“I apologise for the hurt my visit caused and have taken down the video. It was a mistake and I accept that.”
The church’s senior pastor, Agu Irukwu, has previously attracted controversy for his comments on LGBT+ rights – having spoken out against same sex marriage and equality legislation.
The Labour Campaign for LGBT+ Rights had branded Sir Keir’s visit and subsequent social media endorsement of the church’s work as “unacceptable”.
Following the party leader’s apology, the group tweeted: “Thank you Keir Starmer.
“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.”
After raising the matter with the leader’s office, the group said last week that it had received an “unreserved apology” and would be holding a further meeting to ensure it did not happen again.
In the now-deleted video, Sir Keir praised Jesus House as a “wonderful example” of a church serving its community during the coronavirus pandemic – including acting as a vaccination centre.
“From rolling out the vaccine to running the local food bank, Jesus House, like many other churches across the UK, has played a crucial role in meeting the needs of the community,” he said.
In 2017, Theresa May was criticised when she visited the church, although Boris Johnson and the Prince of Wales have both been to the pop-up vaccination centre there in recent weeks without attracting widespread comment.
Labour sources said Sir Keir’s visit was also focused on the vaccination centre – although the video did show him apparently praying with the pastor.