New Labour rift as think tank boss apologises for calling for people smugglers to be sent to Scotland in 'cringe' comments

13 February 2024, 16:38 | Updated: 13 February 2024, 16:41

Mr Simons has apologised
Mr Simons has apologised. Picture: Alamy/LBC

By Will Taylor

A Labour think tank boss has apologised after suggesting on LBC that people smuggling gangs should be "shipped to the north of Scotland".

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Josh Simons, who heads up Labour Together, saw his comments branded "stupid" by the party's leader in Scotland.

He suggested that gangs could be sent far north and put on a barge, adding "who cares?" as he argued Westminster should focus on arresting them instead of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda.

"Following my comments on LBC last night, I apologise for any negative insinuation about Scotland," he posted on X on Tuesday.

"I'm half Scottish, I love the country and it is where much of my family comes from. It was a poorly judged comment made in jest and doesn't reflect my views, or the views of the Labour Party.

"I was seeking to draw attention to the immorality of housing asylum seekers who are fleeing persecution on a barge while smuggler gangs get off free under the Conservatives."

Read more: Sir Keir Starmer insists he has 'torn anti-Semitism out of Labour' with swift action over Rochdale candidate

But the remarks triggered fury, with Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar saying: "Every party has elements on the fringes that give them moments of cringe."

He added: "He doesn't represent the Labour Party and it's actually quite a serious issue he trivialised.

"I think people that are making stupid, flippant comments like that are best ignored."

Labour Together was founded in 2015 by a number of key figures in the party today.

Most prominent among them was shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves.

The group backed Sir Keir Starmer's leadership campaign.

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