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Batley & Spen’s politically active Muslims smeared and ridiculed in by-election

16th Jul 2021
Batley & Spen’s politically active Muslims smeared and ridiculed in by-election

(Credit: WikiCommons)

In the end, it was by a narrow margin that Keir Starmer hailed Labour hanging onto Batley and Spen as a “victory of hope over division.” The crucial by-election was poisoned with hatred, disinformation, threats and intimidation by both sides.

The target of much of the venom was the decisive (20 per cent) Muslims that were used as fodder in all the acrimony. Yet after the result, the community have once again,been put back in their box to yet again be ignored until the next time they are needed as easy prey.

During the hustings, Muslims were sandwiched between Labour, taking their votes for granted and George Galloway parachuting into the contest with the hope of manipulating them.

The former MP has been a maverick and was seeking to put the last nail in Starmer’s coffin if he could prise the seat away by dismantling another brick from the so-called ‘red wall’.

He sought to exploit the Islamophobia the community faces not just locally, but nationally, as well as the economic neglect it has suffered from the party so many have traditionally supported and yet been taken for granted.

Actor turned right-wing anti-woke activist Laurence Fox was even shipped to reignite the controversy over the teacher from Batley Grammar school provoked regarding the offensive cartoon depicting Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist.

No less than 16 candidates were standing, including at least two from the far-right, to create clashes and protests against counter-protesters. Muslims in the West Yorkshire constituency, so crucial to the outcome of the by-election, were not only misrepresented as the root of division but even intolerant about gender narratives.

Footage of an unidentified Asian man hounding Labour candidate Kim Leadbeater spread all over the mainstream and social media with the accusation that Muslims were harassing the sister of the late Jo Cox.

No mention was made that he was not a local. The incident was staged managed for the assembled cameras to fit a distorted agenda while the temporary media circus was in the constituency.

The special focus on the by-election was due to the lacklustre performance by Starmer since becoming Labour leader last year.

He had already lost an earlier by-election in the party’s traditional northern heartland at Hartlepool, with no one seeming to know what Labour stood for anymore. In an attempt to keep the various factions happy, his approach was to have virtually no policies or as few as possible, the effect has been the opposite.

If Hartlepool was the tale of Brexit voters increasingly abandoning Labour, Batley and Spen was the story of Muslim dissatisfaction.

Their support was crucial to Labour holding onto the seat. In response to several local organisations who expressed serious doubts over supporting Labour, Starmer replied in an open letter insisting that the party would not take their votes for granted but much was seen as little more than platitudes.

Leadbeater, a political novice, was imposed onto the community by the party’s hierarchy just weeks before the election.

The rule requiring Labour candidates to be members of the party for a year before being nominated was waived for Leadbeater, who became a Labour member mere weeks before her selection, a fact wittingly ignored not only by Labour supporters and the Muslim MPs who came in drones to campaign for her, but also by the media.

Also overlooked was the presence of far more qualified Muslim candidates, both male and female, who have not only been Labour members for decades but also councillors.

Their candidacy was rejected and Leadbeater imposed on the community, a clear example of Islamophobia in the Labour leadership. This and other kinds of discrimination against the local Muslim community by the Labour Party were among the many reasons why many of the Muslims who had been Labour supporters voted for Galloway, and Leadbeater won with the narrowest of margins.

Most importantly, what was again not discussed by Labour, its leadership, Muslim MPs and the media is that Muslims of all ages in Batley and Spen are among the most politicised in the country and participate actively in the political process.

Muslims made their mark in Batley and Spen. Labour needs to move away from its Islamophobic attitude towards Muslims. The community will not forget the way they were demonised and treated in this election. Watch this constituency and see what happens in the next elections.

One advice to the Conservative Party, according to The Muslim News sources, is that it did approach a well-known and respected local Muslim politician to be their candidate, he refused. The Tories would have won comfortably if they had a Muslim candidate. There is still time until the next parliamentary election.

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event is to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to society. Over 850 people from diverse background, Muslim and non-Muslim, attended the gala dinner.

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