Naz Shah walks out of election debate with Salma Yaqoob

Naz Shah MP

Naz Shah MP walked out of an election debate in Bradford last night before it even started.

The Bradford West Labour candidate attended the The Bradford Muslim Women’s Council event along with independent candidate Salma Yaqoob.

But prior to the meeting, Shah asked that because the constituency’s Conservative candidate George Grant was in the audience that he be given a chance to speak.

Her request was refused because she was told “it’s not a hustings,” and she walked out of the room to a mixture of applause and boos.

The Bradford Muslim Women’s Council, said Ms Shah’s actions had been “unexpected.”

Shah said in a statement issued soon afterwards: “I have not and will not ever compromise my values.

“Today I felt no option but to walk out of a packed event being held in Bradford West. I was originally invited to a Muslim Women’s Council event, having being offered a platform to speak to Muslim women to encourage participation in the democratic process amongst a group of traditionally under represented and disengaged voters, with the independent candidate Salma Yaqoob.

Former Respect Party councillor, Salma Yaqoob

“What I attended tonight was not the above rather a hustings in all but name. The event was opened up to men and women and the wider community. It was not a Muslim women’s event, the audience being predominantly male.  I felt very uneasy at the exclusion of my fellow candidates and urged the organisers to open the platform prior to the event. At the risk of being ’empty chaired’ I attended.

“The Conservative candidate George Grant was present at the ‘hustings’ so in the interest of fairness and democracy, having respectfully requested that George Grant be given the equal platform and my request being flatly denied by the organisation I could not continue partaking in an event which was discriminatory on the grounds of both religion and gender.

“As I stand on a platform of fairness and equality as a proud Labour party candidate, these are our values which I refuse to comprise. I have already committed to four other hustings and I look forward to engage the voters of Bradford West and my fellow candidates in a free, fair and open debate.”

The Muslim Women’s Council today hit back at Shah, saying in a statement: “If she was taking a principled stand as she claimed, she should have declined our invitation. Instead we were bombarded with a barrage of calls from Naz Shah’s office and her male supporters, who eventually hijacked the event and were restrained by police and our own security.

“The heckling and tense atmosphere yesterday was reminiscent of the baradari clan politics that have marred Bradford for so long. Had Naz Shah sincerely believed this was a women-only event, she should not have invited her male supporters to attend, which leads us to believe she was intent on mounting insurmountable reputational damage on our organisation and by extension, on Bradford, the very city she claims to champion.”

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