By: Pooja Shrivastava
Kim Leadbeater, Jo Cox’s sister and Labour’s candidate in the upcoming Batley and Spen by-election, was heckled and chased on Friday (25) while she was on a campaign trail by a group of men, in an incident which party president Keir Starmer has described as “disgraceful”.
In a video uploaded on social media, a man, identified as Shakeel Afsar, a Birmingham activist who campaigns against inclusive relationship and sex education in English schools, is seen shouting at Leadbeater, asking her what are her views were on LGBT+ education in schools as well as her stance on the situation in Kashmir.
“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,” Leadbeater told the main heckler as seen in the video.
Tensions escalated further when Leadbeater and her team opted to walk away. Afsar and his supporters chased her to her car, repeatedly asking if she will support them in their campaign against “LGBT indoctrination”.
Speaking to a media outlet later about the incident, the Labour candidate admitted it had been a “tough day”. In a statement, she said she was happy to participate in “robust political debate” but stressed that a line is crossed when it turns into “intimidatory behaviour”.
“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,” she said.
She added: “Is it any wonder that people, particularly women, don’t want to enter politics when stuff like this happens?
Politicians from across the aisle have spoken out in her support, with senior Labour MP Jess Phillips sending her “solidarity” and former Conservative chairwoman Baroness Warsi saying the incident was “awful”. Phillips also reported to have said that the man in the video is from her constituency in Birmingham and the city has seen a number of protests from people who LGBT+ education in school.
Leadbeater is standing as Labour’s by-election candidate for the Batley and Spen seat, which her sibling used to represent before she was killed five years ago.