Kim Leadbeater defends controversial campaign leaflet featuring India’s Prime Minister

Labour candidate Kim LeadbeaterLabour candidate Kim Leadbeater
Labour candidate Kim Leadbeater
The Labour candidate in the Batley and Spen by-election has defended controversial leaflets which question Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s relationship with his Indian counterpart.

The leaflets, distributed by the Labour campaigners ahead of the election on July 1, show Mr Johnson shaking hands with Narenda Modi and state: “Don’t risk a Tory who is not on your side”.

They also say the Conservative Party leader has been “silent on human rights abuses in Kashmir”, accused of “white washing Islamophobia” and previously compared Muslim women to letter boxes.

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Labour’s candidate Kim Leadbeater told BBC News: “We need an MP who can represent the constituency and the area on local, national and international issues.

“I don’t think it is a mistake. I think that leaflet is about human rights and it’s about having an MP who is going to speak out on the human rights issues in Kashmir.

“Sadly, we’ve got a Prime Minister who isn’t doing that. He isn’t challenging the Indian government around these issues. You need someone who can and that’s exactly what I would do.”

She said there has been some “nastiness” over the last month “which is very upsetting” but she now wants to focus on “what is right for the people of Batley and Spen”.

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It comes after Labour leader Sir Keir condemned the “disgraceful” abuse his candidate faced while campaigning on Friday.

Ms Leadbeater, who is the sister of murdered MP Jo Cox, was confronted by a man who challenged her over the situation in Kashmir and her stance on LGBT+ education in schools amid what he said were concerns from Muslim parents.

Labour activists were allegedly pelted with eggs, verbally abused and assaulted while on the campaign trail in Batley on Sunday and fake Labour leaflets that say the party believes “the biggest threat to our precious multicultural society is whiteness” have also been handed out.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper said that it was “very troubling” to hear about party activists being attacked in Batley and Spen.

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She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday that it was “particularly distressing” that it was happening in the constituency where Jo Cox was murdered.

Ms Cooper added: “This is very troubling – there seems to be a temperature in this campaign that we have not seen in previous by-elections, certainly in West Yorkshire more widely.”

Labour Friends Of India issued a statement earlier this week which said: “It is unfortunate that the Labour Party used a picture of the prime minister of India, the world’s largest democracy and one of UK’s closest friends, from the G7 meeting in 2019, on its leaflet.

“We ask the Labour Party to withdraw the leaflet immediately and will also be writing to the leadership about this.”

The Tories have selected Leeds councillor Ryan Stephenson to fight the by-election, and there will be a total of 16 candidates on Thursday’s ballot paper.