Labour MP Tracy Brabin has been criticised by the presenter of the Muslim TV mayoral hustings in West Yorkshire after pulling out of the event at the last minute, seemingly without any explanation.
Viewers were bemused when the Batley and Spen MP, who is running to become the first West Yorkshire mayor, wasn’t in attendance when the debate kicked off at 8:30pm on Thursday.
The Green Party candidate Andrew Cooper tweeted shortly before the start that Brabin had “pulled out with an hour’s notice”, but didn’t explain the reason behind her decision.
The presenter, Mohammed Shafiq clarified matters shortly after the debate drew to an end in a damning tweet calling out the Labour Party candidate.
“Really poor from Tracy Brabin the Labour Party candidate to pull out of a British Muslim TV debate 90 minutes before because we’ve moved to a community centre at the heart of the Muslim community in Bradford. Doesn’t the Muslim vote matter or are they taking it for granted?” he asked.
“These candidates turned up because they cared about the Muslim vote,” he added in a follow-up tweet with an image of the candidates in attendance attached. “Tracy Brabin on the other hand declined to attend because the only Muslim TV debate can be ignored.
“It’s a shameful night for Labour and no wonder allegations of Islamophobia are rife in the party,” he added.
Bizarrely, Brabin was active on social media on Thursday evening with a number of tweets and retweets but made no reference at all to her absence.
Stranger still, the Labour MP ‘liked’ the damning tweet of presenter Mr Shafiq, again without giving any apology or explanation for her non-attendance.
It’s not the first time Brabin’s communications have been questioned recently.
The former actress-turned MP’s constituency has been at the heart of the national debate on culture in the past fortnight, following the suspension of a teacher at Batley Grammar School for showing a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad to pupils during a Religious Studies lesson.
The outraged Muslim community protested at the school gates, calling on the teacher to be sacked and following the receipt of death threats, the educator and his family had to be relocated under police protection.
Brabin, who if elected would be in charge of West Yorkshire Police, initially issued a statement claiming the “upset and offence this has caused” the Muslim community “is understandable but it was also predictable.”
She stated she was “pleased” that the school had recognised the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad was “inappropriate” and that the school had apologised to the Muslim community.
Her comments were met with ridicule on social media with one user suggesting they amounted to “appeasement” and another questioning whether or not Islamic blasphemy laws now exist in the UK, “or do we have freedom of speech?”
Typically, by the following afternoon the Labour MP had issued a second, markedly similar statement to her Conservative candidate, now showing apparent support for the teacher in question, stating that “no teacher should be facing intimidation or threats, there is no excuse for that” before calling for conversations between the school and the local community to proceed “in a dignified and respectful matter [sic]”.
Significantly, it made no reference to the teacher’s alleged educational use of the Prophet Muhammad as being “inappropriate”, unlike her first attempt.
It would seem she can’t please either side at the moment...