A series of dramatic incidents on the campaign trail in Birmingham, one resulting in a punch-up, have been reported to the police as acrimony erupted between local election candidates and residents over Easter. The separate incidents have triggered calls for high level intervention and an appeal for calm.
In one incident, seen in the video above, men clashed in Small Heath while Labor candidate Saqib Khan, supported by neighboring councilor Mohammed Idrees, were leafletting. Punches were thrown and one man was kicked several times during the Kenelm Road skirmish on Saturday (April 16).
Trouble erupted while two men, with Labor supporters alongside them, were knocking doors ahead of the Birmingham City Council elections next month. After apparently being verbally abused by a resident, a melee ensued. The leader of Birmingham’s Conservatives said he expected the Labor party to take ‘serious steps’ if members were found to have taken part in an alleged assault.
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As punches and kicks were thrown, bystanders attempt to intervene and come between them. The footage was captured from a nearby home.
Cllr Idrees told BirminghamLive: “I was canvassing when it broke out ten meters in front of us. A man was hurling abuse and inciting violence at Labor Party by knockers – he was bringing brothers and sisters into it.
“I was saying we need to move on; avoid getting involved. But then the punching started while others were trying to restrain him.”
On why the scrap broke out, Cllr Idrees added: “He wasn’t shouting at me specifically, but I suppose sometimes people just do not like you. I do not think there’s any history or reason behind it.”
A Kenelm Road resident, who did not want to be named, said: “The individuals involved were just doing their job. He kept shouting at them for dropping off leaflets – that’s all they were doing. He started swearing at them and bringing family into it. They told him to stop, but he would not. ”
Council leader Cllr Ian Ward said the footage, which has been shared widely on social media, shows Cllr Idrees “doing the right thing”. He said: “You can see Cllr Idrees pull away the person who comes out of the house.
“He tried to do the right thing and exercised constraint. I believe the guy hurling abuse was directing it at people delivering leaflets – and that’s what provoked the incident.
“I condemn violence. I will be sending out a message to all Labor candidates to remind and stress the importance of this election being carried out in a respectful manner. We need to end all provocation.”
West Midlands Police have been contacted over the incident but are yet to comment.
Birmingham Conservatives group leader Robert Alden said: “No doubt Labor will be taking serious steps if any of their party members are involved, or stood and watched the alleged assault in Small Heath.”
Campaign trail incidents
In another shocking event, at the start of the Easter break, Lib Dem candidate Gerry Moynihan was confronted by a man as he knocked doors in Bordesley Green. The man allegedly made death threats and told him to get out of the area, in what was later described as an incident rooted in homophobia.
The man allegedly criticized the Lib Dems support for the No Outsiders equality education program. Mr Moynihan told BirminghamLive: “It was not me he was targeting, it was the policies of the Lib Dems, which I support, in relation to the No Outsiders program and our support for equality and diversity and specifically our standing with LGBTQi issues.
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“I am standing in a majority Muslim area, where the overwhelming majority of people are decent honest and non-violent, but some members of our community have a problem with those issues and he was one that decided to have a go.”
He added: “I will not change my view and support for the LGBTQI community. I am not taking the issue forward with the police and am moving on.”
Earlier this weekend, footage was also posted on social media from neighboring Ward End of a verbal altercation while Labor candidate Bushra Bi was canvassing. An argument took place between her supporters and local Tory candidate Hassan Ali, who was accused of harassing and intimidating her – a claim he has since denied on social media. A Lib Dem candidate was also nearby.
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The incident was reported by Cllr Nicky Brennan, who said: “Really sad to hear one of my fellow Labor candidates has been harassed and followed by both the Tory and Lib Dem candidates while out campaigning in Ward End.”
She added it was hard enough to get women candidates to come forward, without tactics like this. “I really hoped all parties would pledge to be kind in the election campaign,” she said. “No one should be made to feel unsafe whilst campaigning or being involved in politics.”
Later, Labor MP for the area, Liam Byrne, posted: “This is absolutely unacceptable behavior which I reported tonight to the Chairs of both Conservatives and Lib Dems to demand they investigate. No one joining in our great democracy must EVER be harassed in this way. Solidarity to Bushra Ali and our Ward End team. ”
Robert Alden, Local Conservatives group leader, said: “I have been made aware of a video circulating online and have asked to see the full unedited version so that we can establish exactly what happened. Clearly harassment of any kind is totally unacceptable and has no place in politics or wider society. ”