UK

Labour think tank boss’s comment on people smugglers dismissed as ‘cringe’

Labour Together director Josh Simons said people smuggler gangs should be shipped to Scotland during a radio appearance, before later apologising.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the comments made by Josh Simons were ‘stupid’
Scottish election poll Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the comments made by Josh Simons were ‘stupid’ (Peter Byrne/PA)

A Labour think tank boss’s comments have been dismissed as “cringe” after he said smuggler gangs should be shipped to Scotland.

Josh Simons, director of Labour Together, suggested on LBC radio that the gangs could be put on a barge and “shipped to the north of Scotland”, adding: “Who cares?”.

He was arguing the UK Government should focus on detaining smugglers instead of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda.

He has since apologised for the remarks.

However, his comments have been branded “stupid” and “flippant” by Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar.

But SNP MP Chris Stephens said the remarks showed a “breathtaking arrogance” from Labour towards Scotland.

The Glasgow South West MP said Mr Simons’ comments mirrored those made by Tory MP Lee Anderson last year, when he said the Orkney Islands would be “perfect” for people fleeing persecution.

Mr Stephens said: “Yet again, Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party is showing breathtaking arrogance towards Scotland – and proving they are increasingly similar to the Tories.

“Whether it’s their damaging plans for Brexit, austerity cuts, NHS privatisation or migration, Starmer’s Labour Party and the Tories look like two sides of the same Westminster coin.

“These comments could have been made by the far-right of the Tory party. The fact they were made by a senior figure at the centre of Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership shows how out of touch Starmer is with Scotland on so many important issues.

“If they had any respect for Scotland, Starmer, Reeves, and half the shadow cabinet would disown their favourite right-wing Labour Party think tank without delay.”

Speaking to the Daily Record, Mr Sarwar said the comments did not reflect the views of Labour. He said: “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.”

Posting on X, formerly Twitter, Mr Simons apologised for the comments. He said: “I apologise for any negative insinuation about Scotland.

“I’m half Scottish, I love the country and it’s 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.”

He added he was seeking to draw attention to the “immorality” of housing asylum seekers on a barge.

The Labour Together think tank was founded in 2015 by a number of the party’s current shadow cabinet including shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, and it was backed by Sir Keir’s leadership campaign.