I shed a few tears this morning. More than a few, in fact, and it wasn’t exactly how I imagined I would respond to my hard-fought for apology from Leave.EU finally being published. But it is a measure of how painful these last few months have been, and this is not a time for celebration.
I faced a significant level of abuse due to these false allegations. Before it was removed, Leave.EU’s Facebook post had been shared 5,600 times and the tweet was retweeted hundreds of times. This, of course, led people to direct their hate towards me.
The sad truth is that, for some in our society, if you are from an ethnic minority community or a Muslim you are not “really British”. That is the consistent bigotry and abuse that I and others receive from the far right on a daily basis, with their agenda designed solely to promote division and violence.
Not long ago, those of us who were first elected in 2015 marked our fifth anniversary and remembered our friend Jo Cox who was murdered by a far-right terrorist. Jo’s constituency of Batley and Spen isn’t far from my own of Bradford West – a point that was noted by the judge who jailed Stewart Hanson last year after he made threats to my life. It further illustrates why these kind of threats and abuse must be taken seriously.
Even during this time of national crisis – when we need more solidarity and unity, and while the vast majority of us have been supporting our neighbours and helping the vulnerable – members of the far right have continued to spread their vile hate.
As Keir Starmer said, we want this country to be the best place to grow up in and grow old in. Together we can and will create a better future for our children that is safe and secure. I stand in solidarity with everyone who is on the receiving end of this kind of abuse. And my message to the perpetrators is clear: for as long as god gives me breath, I will fight for equality, diversity and community cohesion.
I am putting this painful episode behind me, and will focus on continuing to support women and children who are victims of abuse. Love is always stronger than hate. They will not divide us.