Emily Thornberry to attend Fidel Castro funeral instead of Jeremy Corbyn

Posted On: 
28th November 2016

Jeremy Corbyn has decided not to attend the funeral of former communist dictator Fidel Castro.

Jeremy Corbyn will not be attending Fidel Castro's funeral
PA Images

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry will represent Labour at the memorial service on Sunday instead of the party leader - who hailed the ex-Cuban leader's "heroism" following his death at the weekend.

Mr Corbyn was criticised when he referred to Castro's record of human rights abuses - including the execution of political opponents and the jailing of gay people and HIV sufferers - as "flaws" as he paid tribute to the revolutionary icon.

Jeremy Corbyn: For all his flaws, Fidel Castro was a hero

Ken Livingstone: Fidel Castro was an absolute giant of the 20th century

Shadow Foreign Secretary praises Cuba's stand against US 'regime'

"Fidel Castro's death marks the passing of a huge figure of modern history, national independence and 20th century socialism," he said. "From building a world class health and education system, to Cuba's record of international solidarity abroad, Castro's achievements were many."

It had been thought that Mr Corbyn would seize the chance to pay tribute to Castro at the funeral service in Havana.

But a Labour spokesman said: "Emily Thornberry is attending the funeral. It's not unusual for someone other than the leader to attend events such as this on behalf of the Labour party."

One Labour MP said: "Jeremy will be gutted."

Ms Thornberry also caused controversy yesterday by praising the way Castro had stood up to the US "regime" throughout his 50 years in power.

She told the Andrew Marr Show: "All I'm saying is that from my experience, my experience was visiting a country - at the time they didn't have enough petrol to be able to drive cars, they were going around on bicycles on the May Day parade - but nevertheless there were not people starving and they still had an excellent health and education service.

"I'm not saying any more than that, but it was an enormous achievement for a little Caribbean island."

Theresa May is also snubbing the funeral, as is Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Junior Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan is expected to represent the UK government on their behalf.