Despite a no-show earlier in the week, Kim Leadbeater finally turned up to a by-election hustings today to debate the issues that matter most to the people of Batley & Spen; not least Palestine/Kashmir – mentioned by Kim for the fourth time in just over a week – and Keir Starmer’s effectiveness as leader. Thrilling viewing, naturally.
A standout moment came when the candidates were asked for their views on the Batley Grammar School protests, which erupted back in April after a teacher showed students an “offensive” cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad. With George Galloway seething in front of his webcam, Leadbeater claimed:
“Emotions were running very high at that time […] from my perspective I think it’s perfectly possible to believe in freedom of speech whilst it’s also possible to be respectful of people’s different views and beliefs […] I think what we’ve got to be really clear about is we’ve got to have the right to freedom of speech, but we should also be really sensitive to other people’s feelings and opinions, and that’s how I feel about life generally.”
Galloway immediately snapped back, haranguing Leadbeater for being “as clear as mud” on the issue, and insisting that the teacher shouldn’t have shown the cartoon in the first place. Apparently, had he been in charge, the whole thing “never would have happened“. Guido’s not surprised: Galloway’s made his views on freedom of speech pretty clear already today…
UPDATE: Leadbeater goes off script, admitting Starmer’s failed to cut through to local voters on the Palestine issue