Trans activist son of Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper heckles Zahawi off uni campus

31 May 2022, 12:26 | Updated: 31 May 2022, 14:05

Protesters accost Nadhim Zahawi at University of Warwick event

By Will Taylor

One of the trans activists who heckled the education secretary Nadhim Zahawi on his visit to Warwick University is the son of Labour politicians Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper, it has emerged.

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Around 30 LGBT+ activists hounded the education secretary with shouts of "Tory scum" as he visited the university on Friday.

Members of the university's LGBT+ group Warwick Pride brandished flags and placards as they demonstrated against him during his trip to the university's conservative association.

Joel Cooper, the son of the shadow home secretary and the former shadow chancellor, was videoed interrupting Mr Zahawi's Q&A to challenge him over his stance on trans rights.

The video was shared on Warwick Labour's Instagram page.

Mr Cooper was cheered by fellow Labour activists, before he later shared the clip to his Instagram story, Guido Fawkes reported.

On Twitter, he claimed he and other activists had been "blacklisted" from the event and accused the Conservative Association of "censorship".

A statement from Warwick Pride said members were upset at Mr Zahawi for his "role" in "institutional transphobia" and because he used the term "adult human female".

Joel Cooper, the son of Ed Balls and Yvetter Cooper, led the protest.
Joel Cooper, the son of Ed Balls and Yvetter Cooper, led the protest. Picture: Warwick Labour Instagram

Protesters chanted "LGB with the T", "no space for transphobes" and "trans rights are human rights".

Mr Zahawi was taken away by campus security while The Telegraph said a Tory association member was struck on the head by a protester during the ruckus on Friday. He had been on site for about two hours.

Warwick Pride made comments about Kathleen Stock, a former lecturer at the University of Sussex who has been criticised for her views on trans issues, in advance of Mr Zahawi's visit.

The education secretary said it was "unacceptable that a scholar of her calibre should be hounded out of university".

Taking to Twitter after the incident, Mr Zahawi said Mr Cooper was "very polite" to him.

"He made a reasonable point about how schools can help children which I was happy to debate," Mr Zahawi said. "His right to free speech is vital too.

"We will never deny biology but we must always show kindness, tolerance and love when discussing these issues."

Warwick Pride insisted Mr Zahawi "plays a significant role in institutional transphobia as education secretary for the UK".

It went on to say that Mr Zahawi "trivialises" the effects of outing LGBT+ people to their parents.

He has previously said parents should be "front and centre" in decisions about their trans children.

The group also said he used the "common transphobic dog-whistle 'adult human female'".

Activists chanted against the Tories
Activists chanted against the Tories. Picture: Warwick University Conservative Association

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Warwick's Conservative Association said it "supports the right to freedom of speech and expression for everyone regardless of political affiliation" and that it was "a shame that, on this occasion, the intention of many protesters was not to express their own views but to prevent the Secretary of State from expressing his".

A Department for Education source told the Telegraph: "This proves the need for the Freedom of Speech Bill and is more evidence against those who say there is no such thing as a chilling culture on campus."