Attempts by Labour centrists to smear West Midlands Mayoral candidate Salma Yaqoob have been firmly rejected by both Yaqoob and her supporters.
In a letter on behalf of the LGBT+ Parliamentary Labour Party, MPs Stephen Doughty, Angela Eagle, Ben Bradshaw, Chris Bryant, Ged Killen, Peter Kyle and Wes Streeting, all allege that Salma is guilty of a series of comments that could be perceived as homophobic, suggesting that the former Respect leader shouldn’t even be in the Labour Party .
“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.”LGBT+ Parliamentary Labour Party
MP Rosie Duffield, writing on behalf of the Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party, wrote a separate letter to accuse Salma of “bullying” Naz Shah during the 2017 general election campaign in Bradford West.
“Naz has stated that the harassment and intimidation she was subjected to by Ms Yaqoob drove her to be suicidal, and has described the campaign Ms Yaqoob ran as ‘despicable’. Her sisters in the women’s PLP would agree with that appraisal.”Rosie Duffield MP
Perhaps, however, the Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party should be mindful of Salma’s history before accusing her of offences against the sisterhood.
Salma Yaqoob has faced threats both from the far-right and Islamic extremists on a number of occasions for her prominent role as a female activist in the Muslim community, speaking in proud solidarity on anti-war and human rights issues amongst many others. She has faced neo-nazi threats to cut her throat and threats of death from al-Ghurabaa, a later incarnation of al-Muhajiroun.
“As shadow equalities and women minister, I would hope Naz Shah would welcome the principle of women coming forward for political office – even those she disagrees with. I am saddened that she is lobbying nationally to limit the right of local Labour members to make their own choice by seeking to remove me from even a potential shortlist.”Salma Yaqoob
Yaqoob, who will be one of three candidates for the role of West Midlands Mayoral candidate, was thorough and unequivocal in her rejection of the smears.
While the mainstream media have been delighted to print the allegations against Salma, they have of course yet to publish any word of retort, as always taking the centrist view at face value.
As we have seen in several recent cases, neoliberal centrists have resorted to using identity politics in attempts to smear socialist and anti-war opponents, particularly in barely disguised Islamophobic attacks on the Muslim community. While this tactic has been readily apparent as part of the “antisemitism” smear campaign, sadly LGBT rights have also been used as a political football with which Blairite loyalists seem willing to play a game of “smear the Muslim”.
Supporters were quick to see through the attempts at division and were led by Owen Jones who pointed out the uncomfortable echoes of Zac Goldsmith’s deplorable attacks on now London Mayor Sidiq Khan during their run for mayor in 2016.
Many were quick to point out the racist undertones of many of the attacks on Salma, playing into Islamophobic caricatures of Muslims as intolerant and with a culture that is incompatible with their own neoliberal ideological vision of Britain.
Salma Yaqoob has worked tirelessly for an end to racism and war, for social justice and for peace. She will be an asset to the West Midlands and continues to be one to the Labour Party.
It is shameful that there are individuals in the party who would use the divisional and racist language of the far-right to smear their opponents and promote accusations of cultural incompatibility. Thankfully the majority of supporters have the nuance and insight to see through these transparent and ceaseless attacks from anti-Corbyn, pro-Israel, pro-war and pro-division politicians who wish to shatter the solidarity and unity that threatens their grip on the reigns of power.