'She has form when it comes to homophobia': Anger as Salma Yaqoob shortlisted for Labour mayoral tilt
MPs have demanded a Labour candidate for West Midlands Mayor is thrown out of the party over allegations that she has supported homophobia.
Salma Yaqoob is one of three candidates shortlisted to battle for the candidacy, which is expected to go to a vote of the region's party members next month.
But senior MPs and activists claim she is not fit to stand for office, citing concerns over her comments on LGBT rights and recent opposition to Jeremy Corbyn’s party.
The selection of Ms Yaqoob, who has been backed by Momentum boss Jon Lansman, initially sparked controversy because she has repeatedly stood against Labour, most recently at the 2017 general election.
There was also anger that Labour's ruling NEC had relaxed party rules to allow the former Respect Party leader to stand, while Labour MP Naz Shah urged the party to bar Ms Yaqoob following a "despicable" campaign against her two years ago.
Now three Labour groups have demanded that her candidacy is withdrawn.
In a letter to the West Midlands Labour Party's regional director, Fadel Takrouri, MPs from Labour's LGBT group in Parliament said they were dismayed at the decision to allow Ms Yaqoob to stand.
The letter says she "has form when it comes to homophobia and sharing a platform with those who propagate it".
It criticises her for a television appearance where she appeared to suggest being LGBT was a lifestyle choice, and questions her decision to share a platform with Yasir Qadhi, who has said that killing homosexuals and stoning adulterers was part of Islam.
The MPs also accuse her of criticising the inclusive No Outsiders programme in schools, after she said "all sides" were to blame for the protests outside schools in Birmingham.
The letter concludes: "We believe the Labour Party made a terrible mistake when Salma Yaqoob was given her membership card and a terrible error of judgement in waiving the very sensible rule of requiring someone to have been a member for a significant period of time before being allowed to stand for public office.
"We urge the Labour Party’s Regional Office and NEC to revisit and reverse these decisions immediately."
The letter is signed by nine MPs, including group chairs' Stephen Doughty and Angela Eagle.
The Women's Parliamentary Labour Party has also waded into the row, saying in a letter to the party's general secretary Jennie Formby that Ms Yaqoob's "personal targeting and slurs" had driven MP Naz Shah to the brink of suicide in the 2017 campaign.
"Naz does fantastic work as the member for Bradford West and and as shadow minister for women and equalities," the letter says.
"It is, among other things, a disservice to her that the party might allow a woman who bullied and personally targeted her to represent us in an election."
Meanwhile LGBT+ Labour West Midlands has written to Ms Yaqoob raising a number of concerns over her candidacy.
These include questioning why she previously served as a spokeswoman for Dr Mohammad Naseem, who called for the death penalty for members of the LGBT+ community.
The letter also says she had blamed Andrew Moffat – the teacher who developed the No Outsiders programme – for the homophobic abuse he received as a result of it.
A Labour panel including shadow home secretary Diane Abbott selected the mayoral candidates. The other two are Dudley councillor and union favourite Pete Lowe, and Birmingham MP and former frontbencher Liam Byrne.
Ms Yaqoob has responded to the claims against her, saying on Twitter: "My support and defence of LGBTQ+ rights and equality is consistent and longstanding.
"Whilst I am not surprised, given the smears I have already been subjected to since standing for selection in the Mayoral race, I am saddened at attempts to misportray my record of solidarity."
It comes after Ms Yaqoob sparked confusion last week after saying her candidacy had been backed by the Dudley North CLP following a hustings – a claim which was shot down by CLP secretary Cicely Thomas.
In an email to Ms Yaqoob, she wrote: "I would respectfully ask that you now remove any reference to your endorsement by Dudley North from any social media platforms, and make it clear in the press, that, unfortunately for you, Dudley North endorsed someone else."
The group is understood to have backed Mr Lowe.
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