Sir Keir Starmer slams ‘abuse’ of Labour’s Batley and Spen by-election candidate

Opponent George Galloway has denied the man who appeared in a video shouting at Kim Leadbeater was connected to his campaign.

Labour Leader Keir Starmer and Kim Leadbeater
Labour Leader Keir Starmer and Kim Leadbeater

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has described as “disgraceful” apparent abuse faced by his candidate in the Batley and Spen by-election.

Kim Leadbeater, sister of murdered MP Jo Cox, was confronted by a man who challenged her over the situation in Kashmir and her stance on LGBT+ education in schools amid what he said were concerns from Muslim parents.

But in a video that circulated online, Ms Leadbeater was seen to ask the man not to shout at her, before turning away and being pursued and heckled by a group.

In the video, he raises his voice at Ms Leadbeater, who responds by repeatedly asking why he would shout at her in the street.

She said: “This is where I live, this is my community. Don’t come here and shout at me in the street. The Muslim community of Batley and Spen deserve better than this.”

Ms Leadbeater then leaves and is pursued by a group to a car.

The Labour candidate has campaigned against abuse in politics since the 2016 murder of her sister in the West Yorkshire constituency she is now bidding to be the MP for.

And she alleged that opponent and former MP George Galloway, who is standing for his Workers Party, had been “laughing” nearby.

George Galloway is standing in Batley and Spen
George Galloway is standing in Batley and Spen (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Speaking to Byline Media she said campaigning had become “slightly less civil” and that it had been a “tough day”.

She said: “We were out campaigning outside one of the local mosques and then suddenly there was a big group of mainly men, I would say, who started shouting at me in the street, trying to say they were asking me questions but they certainly weren’t giving me a chance to answer any questions, some of them not local.

“George Galloway was at the other side of the street laughing, and I was extremely intimidated.”

Labour leader Sir Keir said: “The abuse Kim Leadbeater has faced is disgraceful.

“George Galloway’s poisonous politics have no place in our country.”

But Mr Galloway said it was a “false statement” that he had been laughing, and he said it was “a lie” to link the incident to his election bid, adding: “The man is unknown to us. He apparently came from Birmingham. I have never seen him before.”

Asked whether he would condemn the behaviour, he replied: “Absolutely.”

In a statement, Ms Leadbeater added: “Is it any wonder that people, particularly women, don’t want to enter politics when stuff like this happens?

“For my family and friends to see this has caused a huge amount of distress. I’ve spent the last few years working on civility in public life and today shows why that work is more important than ever.

“This isn’t the first time I’ve been shouted at in the street during the campaign and I’m very happy to take part in robust political debate but when that turns into intimidatory behaviour, I hope we can all agree a line has been crossed.”

Senior Labour MP Jess Phillips said the man in the video was from Birmingham and had been part of protests in the city.

In 2019, some primary schools in Birmingham faced protests at the school gates from parents who opposed allowing children to be taught about the existence of LGBT+ relationships.

She said: “Solidarity with Kim and the people of Batley, who no doubt like the people in Birmingham will fight such hatred and like the people in Birmingham they will win.”

Former Tory chairwoman Baroness Warsi tweeted: “This is awful. Kim Leadbeater and I may differ in our politics but we are united in fighting for all communities.”

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