Birmingham Hall Green: Respect accuse Labour of ‘contempt’

By L J Shaughnessy

Labour MP for Birmingham Hall Green Roger Godsiff was accused by Respect candidate Salma Yaqoob of ‘showing contempt’ for failing to attend a hustings last week in the constituency.

Along with Ms Yaqoob at the meeting were Jo Barker for the Conservatives and Jerry Evans for the Liberal Democrats, who faced a largely Muslim audience.

On Mr Godsiff’s absence, an organiser from the Balsall Heath Neighbourhood Forum said; “Quite what the reasons are, I don’t understand” to the sound of boos from the audience.

Mr Godsiff has held the seat of Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath since 1992 but his majority was heavily dented at the last general election by Ms Yaqoob, a local councillor.

Yaqoob alleged that Roger Godsiff’s policy in the general election is to miss any hustings which are not being broadcast.

Conservative candidate Jo Barker told the audience; “Thank you very much for the wonderful reception. I was talking to Roger earlier about how much fun this was going to be and, err, he was right.”

Following the meeting Barker blogged: “I had a good mauling tonight at a hustings – really enjoyed it and look forward to more.”

One prominent Labour activist in the audience, who asked not to be named, expressed disappointment at Mr Godsiff’s decision not to attend and said there had been many defections of Labour activists to Respect.

Speaking afterwards Salma Yaqoob told; “Roger Godsiff’s absence epitomises his attitude to local people, he is not prepared to face residents directly. It shows contempt. You can always tell when the wind is changed when hard core activists start coming over from the other side.”

A spokesman for Mr Godsiff’s office explained his absence at the meeting: “Mr Godsiff no longer participates in ‘hustings meetings’ or ‘panel discussions’ where other candidates are invited because he has found, from experience over a number of elections, that these occasions are used by certain candidates as publicity stunts rather than discussions about the issues of concern to most people.”