Shadow minister ‘apologises’ for saying Labour defections are ‘cleansing’

Shadow minister ‘apologises’ for saying Labour defections are ‘cleansing’

Paul Sweeney, shadow minister for Scotland, made the comment at the relaunch of Tribune in Glasgow

A shadow minister has apologised for claiming that MPs who defected to the Independent Group were part of a “necessary cleansing”, saying the remark was a “clumsy choice of words.”

Paul Sweeney, shadow minister for Scotland, told guests at the relaunch of the magazine Tribune in Glasgow last week that “there’s a necessary cleansing that has to happen in the margins,” according to a report in the Morning Star.

The left-wing daily also reports that the MP for Glasgow North East told guests he regretted the departure of Luciana Berger, MP for Liverpool Wavertree, but dismissed other defectors, describing Chris Leslie as “aloof and arrogant”.

Sweeney has since apologised, saying: “This was a clumsy choice of words, I meant no offence and apologise for any offence inadvertently caused on my part.”

A Labour Party source told Jewish News: “Paul Sweeney has apologised for his choice of words but he was clearly talking about longstanding policy differences that some of the defecting MPs had.

“He made a clear distinction between how he felt about them leaving and the regret he felt about Luciana Berger.”

Former Labour MP Ian Austin tweeted earlier today: “A Labour MP says that people who have left Labour because of racism and extremism is a ‘necessary cleansing’.

“Let’s think about this: @pauljsweeney thinks the party is cleaner because people appalled about racism have left.”

He added in another tweet: “Someone has told me he is apparently the shadow Scotland minister. They said I should call for him to be sacked.

“I’m wondering why anyone would want to be on the front bench helping Jeremy Corbyn in the first place.”

Speaking to BBC’s Good Morning Scotland last month, Sweeney described some of the defectors as “thwarted careerists.”

He said: “It is clear we need to build trust in this area [antisemitism] but also I would say there are many reasons why the eight MPs defected.

“I was deeply concerned that Luciana left the party in the circumstances in which she did leave but there are many others that, frankly, were simply thwarted careerists.”

Paul Sweeney and the Labour Party were both approached for comment but did not immediately respond.

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