WATCH Senior Labour official plunged into sectarian row over 'anti-Catholic' jibe
A senior Labour official has had to apologise after he appeared to make an anti-Catholic joke from the stage at the party's annual conference.
Andy Kerr, who is chair of Labour's ruling National Executive Committee, asked a female delegate whether she had "crossed herself" after calling her to take part in a debate.
His comments provoked outrage from Labour MPs, with one telling PoliticsHome that he should apologise.
The incident happened during a debate on planned changes to the party's rules. In his role as chair of the debate, Mr Kerr selected one woman with her hand up. He then said: “Did you cross yourself, there? In that case, I might not.”
One Labour MP told PoliticsHome: “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. A casual gratuitous anti-Catholic insult from the chair of Labour Party conference."
Another MP said: “To have any chance of winning again in Scotland we need to persuade tens of thousands of Catholic voters we’ve lost to the SNP to come back to Labour.
“The sight of the NEC chair mocking someone for blessing themselves live on television at our party conference doesn’t exactly aid that task. It was a bad mistake and he should apologise.”
In a statement issued late on Sunday, Mr Kerr apologised "unreservedly" for his comments.
The NEC chair added: "I was trying to be lighthearted but what I said was ill-judged and wrong."
The row comes as Labour tries to shake off the anti-Semitism controversies which have dogged the party in recent years.