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Birmingham MP causes outrage after voicing support for school protests

Birmingham MP causes outrage after voicing support for school protests

Labour MP Roger Godsiff school

The MP for a Birmingham primary school has caused outrage after telling campaigners protesting LGBTI-inclusivity school lessons ‘you’re right’.

Birmingham Hall Green MP Roger Godsiff was speaking to campaigners who have held demonstrations outside Anderton Park Primary School.

The Labour MP also told protestors they had ‘just cause’ in a video which has been circulating online.

Godsiff’s comments have been sharply condemned by a number of his Labour Party colleagues.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said she had reported Godsiff to the party’s chief whip.

Fellow Labour MP Wes Streeting said Godsiff’s comments had made him feel ‘sick to my stomach’.

Protests against LGBTI-inclusivity lessons have occurred outside of several Birmingham schools since the beginning of the year.

Campaigners have said that primary school children are too young to be taught about LGBTI issues.

Anderton Park school has become a particular flash-point for protests in recent months.

The UK’s High Court issued an injunction banning protests from outside the school last week. Protestors have vowed to fight the injunction.

‘I will continue to try and fight your corner because you’re right’

In the video, Godsiff is seen addressing protestors alongside campaigner, Shakeel Afsar.

Afsar has been a lead organizer of the protests outside Anderton Park, though does not have children at the school.

While voicing his support for the protestors, Godsiff said: ‘I think you have a just cause and I regret the fact that it hasn’t been reciprocated by the headteacher.’

He told demonstrators they had ‘made [their] point’ and should ‘consider calling the protest off’. However, he added that it was their choice whether to do so or not.

‘I will continue to try and fight your corner because you’re right,’ Godsiff added. ‘Nothing more, nothing less – you’re right.’

The MP’s comments come days after the mayor for the West Midlands described the protests as ‘homophobic’ and should ‘stop now’.

Mayor Andy Street said he was in ‘disbelief’ over the content of materials which had been distributed at the protests.

Anderton Park headteacher, Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, has also spoken about how the protests have caused disruption and fear among school staff and students.

‘Discriminatory and irresponsible’

Godsiff’s comments have caused widespread condemnation within the Labour party.

Angela Rayner said she has reported Godsiff to chief whip, Nick Brown, BBC News reports.

‘This might be the personal views of Mr Roger Godsiff but they do not represent the Labour Party and are discriminatory and irresponsible,’ the shadow education secretary said.

Wes Streeting, the Labour MP for Ilford North, also said he would be tabling a formal complaint against Godsiff.

‘This made me feel sick to my stomach,’ Streeting wrote in a tweet.

‘One of my own Labour colleagues stood with people who have peddled hatred and bigotry on school gates, intimidating pupils, teachers and parents. 800 young people in his city have called Childline – some suicidal.’

‘You do not speak for me’

Godsiff’s comments were also condemned by members of Birmingham city council and LGBTI members of the Labour party.

‘How dare you tell men whose homophobic protests were so threatening and disruptive that they had a court injunction issued against them that they are ‘right’,’ Birmingham city council’s deputy leader Brigid Jones tweeted.

‘You do not speak for me.’

The group LGBT Labour voted unanimously to ‘unreservedly and unequivocally’ condemn Godsiff’s comments.

A petition calling for Labour to deselect Godsiff has also been launched, gaining over 1,000 signatures.

This is not the first time the Birmingham MP has voiced opposition to LGBTI-inclusivity lessons.

In May, Godsiff said that learning about LGBTI issues was not ‘age appropriate’ for primary school children.

Ongoing issue 

Protests against LGBTI-inclusivity lessons have been taking place outside of schools in Birmingham since January.

The protests were initially directed towards Parkfield Community School over the school’s No Outsiders classes, which taught lessons on same-sex relationships and gender identity. The protests later spread to nearby schools with similar programs.

Protestors – who are mostly, but not exclusively, Muslim – have said that primary school children are too young to learn about LGBTI issues. Campaigners have also claimed the lessons go against the teachings of Islam.

Several schools in the area put their LGBTI-inclusivity lessons on hold as a result.

Earlier this week, schools minister Nick Gibb described the protests as ‘wrong’ and said the government was working with local authorities to find a solution to the issue.

A number of senior politicians have also expressed support for LGBTI-inclusivity lessons in UK schools. This includes the Education Secretary Damian Hinds.

The head of Ofsted, the UK’s school watchdog, has also said that LGBTI-inclusivity lessons should be widely taught in schools.

See also

Protests resume at Birmingham school over LGBTI inclusivity lessons

Teachers call for more govt support on LGBTI-inclusivity lessons in schools

Homophobic leaflets distributed at school amid LGBTI-inclusivity lessons row