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Labour anger as LGBT row activist is shortlisted to be mayoral candidate

3 min read

Labour bosses have been criticised after an activist embroiled in a homophobia row was shortlisted to be a mayoral candidate for the party.

Salma Yaqoob is in the running to stand for Labour in the West Midlands Mayor election in 2021.

But the LGBT+ Labour group have written to party officials demanding that they "revisit" the decision over comments she has made in the past about homosexuality.

Ms Yaqoob - a leading supporter of Jeremy Corbyn - also backed a protest against LGBT education in primary schools in Birmingham.

In a letter to Fadel Takrouri, Labour's regional director in the West Midlands, the LGBT+ group say: "Salma Yaqoob has form when it comes to homophobia and sharing a platform with those who propagate it.

"She has previously referred to being LGBT as 'a choice of lifestyle' on national television. She has shared a platform with Yasir Qahdi, who has said that 'killing homosexuals and stoning adulterers' was part of Islam.

"She waded into the Parkfield School dispute, criticising the No Outsiders programme that promotes inclusion. While serving as a Respect Party councillor, she acted as a spokesperson for a man who claimed that the Government planned the 7/7 bombings and was a leading member of the Islamic Party of Britain, which had a policy of supporting the death penalty for homosexuality."

Labour MPs are also angry at the decision to admit Ms Yaqoob to the party, despite the fact that she has stood against it at several elections, most recently in Bradford West in 2017.

The LGBT+ letter adds: "We believe the Labour party made a terrible mistake when Salma Yaqoob was given her membership card and a terrible error of judgment 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.

"We urge the Labour party's regional office and NEC to revisit and reverse these decisions immediately."

Labour MP Wes Streeting, who is a member of LGBT+ Labour, said: "It beggars belief that someone with Salma Yaqoob’s political beliefs and record of standing against Labour candidates has been fast-tracked to standing for the West Midlands Mayor.

"It seems with current selections in the Labour party it’s who you know, not what you stand for, that counts."

Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, who is also a member of the group, tweeted: "It is appalling that someone who has expressed such homophobic views, stood against Labour at the last election & has only been in our party for 5 minutes has been allowed on this shortlist by the NEC."

In a statement posted on Twitter, Ms Yaqoob said the allegations against her were "either false or seriously misleading".

She added: "I want to be clear that I stand in full solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community and I am ansolutely committed to confronting all forms of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in our society."

Ms Yaqoob has been shortlisted to be Labour's mayoral candidate alongside former Cabinet minister Liam Byrne and Pete Lowe.

The row comes amid claims of a "stitch up" in the process for selecting Labour candidates for the upcoming general election, amid claims that allies of Mr Corbyn are being shortlisted for key seats across the country at the expense of local party members.

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