Labour's Jess Phillips says opposition activists 'abused her because they were idiots, not because they were Muslims'

7 July 2024, 14:32 | Updated: 7 July 2024, 14:41

Lewis Goodall speaks to Jess Phillips: Watch again

By Kit Heren

Labour MP Jess Phillips has said that activists for her opponent during the recent General Election abused her "because they were idiots", not because of their Muslim faith.

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Ms Phillips told LBC's Lewis Goodall that it was "too simple to say" that the abuse she suffered was sectarian, after she beat Workers Party candidate Jody McIntyre by fewer than 700 votes.

Mr McIntyre was running on a platform that focused on the war in Gaza, which has seen tens of thousands of people die. Ms Phillips herself quit the Labour Shadow Cabinet to vote for a ceasefire.

She said the recent election was the worst she had ever stood in, with she and her team having been abused, threatened and intimidated by opposition activists. One of her activists even had the tyres of her car slashed.

Sadiq Khan was abused when he came to campaign in her seat, with Workers Party activists screaming invective about his mother, Ms Phillips said.

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She told Lewis that she didn't suffer abuse from local people, with whom she had "lots of really lovely conversations", even when they disagreed on policy.

But she added: "What was brought into my seat - I have to say, most of them weren’t from Yardley, just to be completely clear - was horrible lies, division."

She said that there were "people threatening people on polling stations [and]one of my activists had her tyres slashed…

"These people weren’t ashamed of what they were doing, they were doing it and filming it and putting it on the internet.

Ms Phillips added that "when Sadiq Khan came, men wearing masks, shout[ed]…stuff about Sadiq Khan’s mother. They’re not ashamed, they’re putting it on the internet to incite other people to do the same."

Asked whether the abuse was sectarian, Ms Phillips said that was "too simple" an explanation.

She added: "People want desperately for me to announce that the people shouting at me and barracking me were Muslim men.

"The fact that they were men is quite significant to me - the fact that they were Muslim is not significant because there are Muslim people in my constituency who didn’t behave like this.

"These people were idiots. They didn’t do it because they were Muslim - they did it because they were idiots, and they wanted something for themselves, and they used a terrible tragedy to get that."

The head of the Muslim Council of Britain praised Ms Phillips "for how well she has handled this awful and unacceptable abuse, rising strongly above it."

Zara Mohammed added: "Despite wider attempts to frame this as Muslim sectarianism, and stoke divisions, Jess rightly asserts that this behaviour does not represent Muslim communities."

Labour's Jess Phillips
Labour's Jess Phillips. Picture: Getty

Birmingham Yardley was one of a number of seats where Labour were pushed to the edge in areas with high Muslim populations, with the war in Gaza playing a big role.

Labour's Shadow Paymaster General Jonathan Ashworth even lost his seat to an independent candidate.

Shockat Adam, an independent candidate who has focused his campaigning on Gaza, won 14,739 votes to Mr Ashworth's 13,760 - a margin of just 979 votes.

Ms Phillips' victory comes against a candidate who wrote in a WhatsApp group that he felt the trans community is a "danger to society".

Speaking after her victory, Ms Phillips described the campaign as the "worst election I have ever stood in" as she was drowned out by chants of 'Free Palestine'.

“I love my seat was a marginal seat, I think marginal seats make better members of Parliament,” she continued.

Ms Phillips was forced to shout at the protesters, before demanding they be removed.

Jody McIntyre
Jody McIntyre. Picture: Alamy

Mr McIntyre is alleged to have sent the messages in a local community WhatsApp group.

The messages, uncovered by LBC, appear to refer to a discussion which has taken place, resulting in a message from Mr McIntyre saying “I honestly think the trans community are a danger to society… but we can have different views”.

The candidate wrote "So you believe that if a person 'identifies' as a certain sex they literally become that sex?? Or should I say he believes. I honestly think the trans community are a danger to society."

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On Crowdfunder Jody McIntyre describes himself as a “Birmingham resident” who was “shocked and dismayed to discover that… Jess Phillips is a member of Labour friends of Israel… This is unconscionable”.

Workers Party candidate James Giles said: “Both the Muslim and LGBT community have been marginalised over many years.

"MPs, and by extension candidates for MP, have a duty to show leadership and bridge divides between communities. That’s the sort of MP I aim to be if elected in Hodge Hill.

"I hope Jody will also reflect on his comments, and work diligently to bridge those divides in Yardley, where people are in urgent need of real change."

The Workers Party declined to comment on Mr McIntyre's comments.

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