General view of the high street in Batley, West Yorkshire (Image: Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)
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The Batley and Spen by-election is descending into "dirty tricks" after smear leaflets were faked in Labour's name and activists were "kicked in the head".
The party's race to hold the key West Yorkshire seat turned ugly over the weekend as two separate incidents were reported to police.
Yesterday Labour activists out in Batley were "followed, verbally abused and physically assaulted by a group of young men", according to departing MP and new West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin.
Ms Brabin said: "The group I was with included young people and the elderly. I witnessed them being egged, pushed and forced to the ground and kicked in the head".
Separately, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) condemned a "dirty tricks" campaign after fake leaflets purporting to be from "woke" Labour were pushed through letterboxes over the weekend.
The leaflets showed Keir Starmer taking the knee, before adding: "Labour believes that the biggest threat to our precious multicultural society is whiteness, and as a community, we must tackle this threat head-on."
Fake Labour leaflets being distributed in Batley and Spen as part of a 'dirty tricks' smear campaign in the by-election
The fake leaflets claim: "Labour believes that the biggest threat to our precious multicultural society is whiteness"
Local sources said the leaflets, which also "urge anyone who knows someone who has booed the England players to report that person to the relevant authorities" had been distributed "quite widely".
The fake leaflets contained a fake imprint claiming to be from the TUC, but the TUC does not have a political fund and cannot campaign in a by-election in this way.
A TUC spokesman said: "The TUC has nothing to do with this leaflet, and condemns these dirty tricks.
"Whoever is responsible for this divisive leaflet does not deserve the votes of working people and should be ashamed of themselves."
It is an offence under electoral law to print a leaflet without a correct "imprint", showing who has produced it and who it is promoting.
Kim Leadbeater on her battle for Batley – and the 'nasty circus' that's come to her home
We asked people in Batley and Spen how they'll be voting in the by-election
With 16 candidates fielding the seat, including on the extreme right, it has not been proven whether any specific candidates were behind the two incidents.
Both have been reported to police, and West Yorkshire Police confirmed on Sunday evening that they are investigating the incident in which activists were "physically assaulted".
A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: "Enquiries remain ongoing today regarding an incident in Whitaker Street, Batley at about 4.30pm on Sunday in which eggs were thrown at males canvassing for a political party.
"One man was further assaulted in the incident.
"Kirklees Police has recorded four crimes of assault in relation to what took place and officers are conducting active enquiries into the matter today.
"Anyone who saw what happened or has information about what occurred to asked to contact Kirklees District CID on 101 referencing crime number 13210322000."
Ms Brabin said: "We know why tensions are rising in our streets. Those who want to sow division are not welcome in our community.
"The actions of these people do not represent the Batley and Spen I know. We are kinder than this."
It comes after Labour candidate Kim Leadbeater was shouted at in the street on Friday, after a man demanded to know if she supports LGBT education in schools.
Batley and Spen profile
Nestled in hills between Dewsbury and Bradford, Batley and Spen voted Tory from its 1983 creation until 1997.
Boundary changes and Tony Blair’s landslide turned it red – but Labour’s majority dropped to a low of 3,525 in 2019.
The seat has the Fox’s biscuits plant, the Mill outlet and legions of bed factories. A major employer is also the Junction 27 retail park by the M62, while there is a row over plans to build a giant Amazon warehouse on green fields near Cleckheaton.
Kirklees Council held steady under Labour control in May’s local elections despite trouble for Keir Starmer elsewhere.
In 2011, 19% of residents were Muslim, four times more than in Britain as a whole.
26% of children are in absolute poverty compared to 16% in the UK. But the 5.4% of residents claiming unemployment benefits in May 2021 was less than the 6% in the UK overall.
She later alleged that opponent and former MP George Galloway, who is standing for his Workers Party, had been "laughing" nearby.
Mr Galloway said it was a "false statement" and, asked whether he would condemn the behaviour, he replied: "Absolutely."
But shadow crime reduction minister Holly Lynch claimed on Sunday: " George Galloway's campaign has created a toxic environment that is suffocating democracy and drowning out the voices of local people."
Speaking generally, Ms Lynch added: "There has been a series of increasingly serious and violent attacks in recent days and this is absolutely unacceptable.
"Lawless thugs are seeking to intimidate and attack those involved in the proper democratic process."
Interviewed by the Mirror before the events of the weekend, Ms Leadbeater said: "I feel really positive about things, but that’s because I’m getting my energy from local people and they’re the ones who matter in this election campaign.
Labour candidate Kim Leadbeater on the doorstep
(Image: Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)
"Sadly we’re going to get some very nasty, divisive figures who are going to turn up in Batley and Spen over the next week or so.
"And that’s not helpful for our community. And when the circus leaves town, I still have to live here. Everybody else still has to live here peacefully.
"And that’s what the vast majority of people want to do. So I would ask people to think about that when they’re making their decision on July 1."