Sir Keir Starmer declared his “wholehearted support” for the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre planned for a site next to the House of Commons.
The Labour leader said it was “more important than ever” for young people and future generations to learn about the Nazi extermination programme and subsequent genocides.
His announcement is a powerful political boost for the project, which has been held up by a planning dispute, and further move by Sir Keir to repair relations with London’s Jewish community following the antisemitism scandals under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
Sir Keir was due to meet former Cabinet ministers Ed Balls and Eric Pickles, co-chairs of the memorial foundation, to stress his backing for the site chosen in Victoria Tower Gardens, overlooking the Thames at Westminster, ahead of an upcoming planning inquiry.
He said: “It is vital for our nation that we commemorate the six million Jewish men, woman and children murdered during the Holocaust. It is more important than ever that we educate current and future generations of the horrors of genocide and persecution.
“The fight against intolerance and prejudice in our society, and the stain of antisemitism, goes on. So I offer my wholehearted support to the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre and its placement next to the heart of our democracy.
“It is disappointing that, despite almost two years passing since the planning application was submitted, permission for the project has still not been granted. I urge the Planning Inspector to recognise the national significance of this project, as a reminder of what can occur when hatred takes hold in society.”
The project is backed by all living former prime ministers but has been criticised for both the architectural design and its location.
A competition for the design produced a structure of 23 tall bronze fins, with an underground learning centre and a ‘hall of testimonies’ containing the witness accounts of survivors. But eight Jewish peers wrote a letter to The Times arguing the design “evoked neither the Holocaust nor Jewish history” while another critic dubbed it a “toast rack”.
In February Westminster Council ruled that the site “contravenes planning rules on size, design and location”, citing a loss of trees and green space in a park visited 3.6 million times a year. The plan was called in by the Government, which means an inspector will attempt to settle the matter.