"It's got to do with Iran" - Chief Rabbi caught off guard on the Today programme

Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks says Gaza conflict is "to do with Iran" after not realising he was still on air.

There was an amusing moment on the Today programme this morning when, after delivering Thought For The Day, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks was asked by presenter Evan Davis for his thoughts on the situation in Gaza. Not appearing to realise he was still on air, he sighed and replied, "I think it's got to do with Iran, actually", a moment of candour that prompted co-presenter Sarah Montague to whisper, "we, we're live!"

Sacks then delivered a more banal response offering a "a continued prayer for peace, not only in Gaza but for the whole region. No one gains from violence, not the Palestinians, not the Israelis. This is an issue here where we must all pray for peace and work for it."

One wonders: did Sacks not finish his point because he thought it was inappropriate or because he thought Today thought it was inappropriate?

You can listen to the exchange in full above.

Update: The BBC has apologised for catching Sacks off-guard. A spokesman said: "The Chief Rabbi hadn’t realised he was still on-air and as soon as this became apparent, we interjected. Evan likes to be spontaneous with guests but he accepts that in this case it was inappropriate and he has apologised to Lord Sacks. The BBC would reiterate that apology."

Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.