Campaigners have condemned “dirty tricks” in the Batley and Spen byelection and expressed fears for activists, after fake leaflets suggested Arbeid believed “whiteness” was the biggest threat to communities.
Intussen, police were called after Labour activists were pelted with eggs and kicked while on the campaign trail with Tracy Brabin, the newly elected mayor of West Yorkshire.
The Labour candidate, Kim Leadbeater, the sister of former Batley MP Jo Cox, who was murdered by a far-right fanatic, has also been abused in the street and had homophobic statements circulated on social media about her and her support for LGBT education.
Tensions are high in the constituency where Labour is facing a difficult challenge from the Conservatives and from the former MP George Galloway who has positioned his campaign as a leftwing challenge to Keir Starmer’s leadership. A number of far-right parties are also standing.
The Trades Union Congress is understood to be taking legal advice over fake Labour leaflets which were distributed over the weekend, bearing its imprint. The party has reported them to the police and the Electoral Commission.
The leaflets show Keir Starmer taking the knee, as well as the England football team, and say: “Labour believes that the biggest threat to our precious multicultural society is whiteness, and as a community, we must tackle this threat head-on.”
The leaflet, designed to stoke racial tensions, said that the Labour leader “believes that it is high time that white people acknowledge their privilege”.
A spokesperson for the TUC 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 for campaigners in a byelection to produce a leaflet without an imprint, which discloses who is promoting the subject matter.
West Yorkshire police confirmed on Sunday they were investigating the alleged assault of several activists and said active inquiries would continue on Monday.
Brabin, the former MP who quit after being elected mayor, gesê: “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.”
The shadow minister Holly Lynch said Galloway and his supporters had “created a toxic environment that is suffocating democracy and drowning out the voices of local people”. Galloway’s campaign had robustly denied it was behind any of the abuse or attacks.
In a viral video, Leadbeater was confronted by a man who challenged her over the situation in Kashmir and her stance on LGBT education in schools. Leadbeater, who asked the man not to shout at her, was pursued and heckled.
Labour was also accused of using divisive language on anti-Tory leaflets picturing Boris Johnson with the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi. The leaflet said: “Don’t risk a Tory MP who is not on your side.” The leaflet highlighted Johnson’s silence on human rights in Kashmir, the investigation into Conservative Islamophobia and Johnson’s comments that women in niqabs looked like “letterboxes”.
The Tory MP Ric Holden said Labour were “playing the identity politics they have a go at George Galloway for”.