Salma Yaqoob

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Salma Yaqoob
Salma Yaqoob.jpg
Yaqoob in May 2013
Leader of the Respect Party
In office
8 August 2005 – 11 September 2012
Preceded byLinda Smith
Succeeded byArshad Ali
Personal details
Salma Sultana Yaqoob

(1971-08-15) 15 August 1971 (age 48)[1]
Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
Political partyLabour (2019–present)
Other political
Respect (2004–2012)
Alma materAston University

Salma Yaqoob (born 15 August 1971)[3] is a British political activist[4] and psychotherapist.[5]

She served as leader and vice-chairman of the Respect Party, and represented it as a Birmingham City Councillor. She led the Birmingham Stop the War Coalition and is a patron of Stop the War Coalition UK. She is a 2020 West Midlands Mayoral Candidate

She has been a spokesperson for Birmingham Central Mosque.[6]

Yaqoob has also contributed to news outlets, including HuffPost,[7] The Guardian[8] and New Statesman.[9]

Early life[edit]

Yaqoob's parents, Mohammad and Gulzarda Yaqoob, emigrated to the UK from Pakistan in the 1960s, and her father worked in a mill before joining the Royal Mail.[10] Yaqoob was born in Bradford on 15 August 1971:[11] the family later moved to Birmingham, where she was raised. She describes herself as having been a "tomboyish girl" who played football on the streets of Alum Rock.

Yaqoob became politically active after the September 11 attacks. She claims to have been spat at on the streets of Birmingham in the days following the attacks.[12]

Professional career[edit]

Yaqoob runs a part-time psychotherapy practice.[13]

She is employed as a Community Engagement Senior Manager at the Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.

In April 2014, she was appointed Independent Chair of the Stakeholder Council of Birmingham South Central Clinical Commissioning Group.[14]

Political career[edit]


2005 general election[edit]

In the 2005 general election, she stood as the Respect candidate for the Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath constituency against Labour's Roger Godsiff MP, with the backing of the Muslim Association of Britain.[15] She finished in second place, ahead of the Liberal Democrat and Conservative candidates, and with 27.5% of the total vote.[citation needed]

2006 elected as Respect councillor[edit]

Yaqoob was elected with 49.4% of the vote in the Sparkbrook ward of Birmingham City Council in the 2006 local elections. She claimed that her election "challenged the traditional conservatism that denies leading public positions to women, and challenged the old order, which treats our communities as silent voting fodder. And it was only possible because we united people around a progressive message of anti-racism and social justice".[16] She was re-elected to the post in May 2010.[17]

2010 general election[edit]

Yaqoob stood in the 2010 general election for the Respect Party in the Birmingham Hall Green constituency,[18] and came second to Roger Godsiff of the Labour Party, trailing by 3,799 votes.[citation needed]

Yaqoob gained 13.9% of the vote, chiefly from the Labour incumbent — the Labour candidate lost 11.7% of the total vote, election-to-election.[19] The Green Party had stood down its candidate in favour of Yaqoob after a members' vote.[20] Green Party leader Caroline Lucas stated she believed "Salma will make a very good MP".[21] The retiring Labour MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, Lynne Jones, backed Yaqoob's candidacy ahead of Labour's Godsiff, saying "Salma Yaqoob is an excellent candidate of great ability who, as a councillor, has shown that she works hard for her constituents. I have a lot of time for her ... [I]n the Hall Green constituency ... I am not happy with the endorsement of the Labour candidate".[22]

In 2011 Yaqoob claimed to have been offered a choice of two 'safe seats' by the Labour Party, one in Birmingham and one in the Black Country, in the lead-up to the 2010 general election. She stated she had declined the offer.[23]

Yaqoob became the leader of the Respect Party, making her the only Muslim female leader of a Parliamentary political party in British history.

Council ceremony in 2011[edit]

At a Birmingham City Council meeting in early February 2011, Yaqoob and another Respect party councillor, Mohammed Ishtiaq, sat with their arms folded and refused to participate in a standing ovation at a meeting at which Britain's most highly decorated serving marine and Afghanistan veteran Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher, GC, RMR was a guest.[24][25] This led to widespread criticism from other councillors, including allegations that it was a disrespectful act.[25] The two councillors argued they were protesting against "false patriotism" by politicians, while defending their own history of support of individual troops.[26]

Martin Mullaney, a Liberal Democrat councillor, alleged afterwards that Yaqoob would have applauded if it were the 21 July failed bombers who were being honoured. He later apologised for this claim.[27]

Media appearances for Respect[edit]

Yaqoob has made six appearances on the panel of BBC One's Question Time programme. Her first appearance was in Skegness, 19 January 2006, shortly before her election as a councillor.[28] She returned in Preston (October 2006),[29] followed by her home town of Birmingham on 8 February 2007[30] and Bath on 12 February 2009.[31]

On 10 December 2009, Question Time was held in Wootton Bassett, a town where the bodies of UK troops killed in Afghanistan pass through and are informally mourned.[32] Salma Yaqoob stated that she "would be proud to have my sons defend this country" and argued for better support for UK troops and their withdrawal from Afghanistan.[33]

She made her sixth appearance on the show on Thursday 10 June 2010, when it was broadcast from Plymouth. She was joined on the panel by Ben Bradshaw, Jeremy Hunt, Katie Hopkins and Toby Young.[34]

Yaqoob has also made appearances on The Politics Show,[35] This Week,[36] Daily Politics,[37] 10 O'Clock Live,[38] and Frost Over The World.[39]


Resignation as councillor and leaving Respect[edit]

On 7 July 2011, Yaqoob announced her intention to stand down as a Birmingham City councillor, citing health reasons.[40]

On 11 September 2012, Yaqoob announced her resignation from the Respect party after what she described as a difficult few weeks and a breakdown in relations.[41][42][43] Yaqoob had distanced herself from comments made by George Galloway about rape and the allegations made against Julian Assange. In her statement, Yaqoob said "I remain committed to the principles and values that led me to help found Respect. The policies we have fought for need to be voiced as loud as ever in opposition to a political establishment that remains out of touch with working people."[44][42] In an interview with Aida Edemariam of The Guardian, Yaqoob said that she was being forced into making a "false choice" between Galloway's "anti-imperialist stances" and defending women's rights.[45]

Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas offered immediate support to Yaqoob, saying "Really hope Salma Yaqoob's resignation from Respect doesn't mean she's leaving politics – we need her clarity and vision."[45] Labour MP, Richard Burden said Yaqoob could possibly have a future with the Labour Party, saying "If right for her and us and differences resolved, Salma Yaqoob would be asset".[46]

In December 2015, it was reported that Yaqoob had applied to become a Labour Party member in Hall Green. The local constituency executive committee refused her membership, since she had previously stood against Labour candidates.[47]

Hands off Birmingham schools[edit]

Yaqoob co-led the "Hands off Birmingham schools" group, which was set up in 2014 in response to Operation Trojan Horse.[48]

Iain Duncan Smith "scrounger" comment[edit]

In 2014 episode of Question Time which went viral online, Yaqoob called the then-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith "patronising" for his views on poverty. She also said that Duncan Smith "labels poor people as scroungers when [he] claim[s] £39 for a breakfast" and "live[s] on [his] wife's estate and [has] taken a million pounds of taxpayers' money, that's what I call scrounging".[49] Duncan Smith denied claiming the money for his breakfast or labelling poor people as "scroungers".[49]

2017 general election[edit]

Yaqoob stood in the 2017 general election as an independent candidate in the Bradford West constituency.[50][51] She came third with 13.9% of the votes, 2.7% behind the second-placed Conservative Party candidate.[52] Her standing was mired in controversy, after complaints by Labour HQ[53] about her use of photographs of her with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and her claims that she is a pro-Corbyn candidate.[54] Responding to the complaint, Yaqoob stated that "at no point in the leaflet do I make the claim of an endorsement from Jeremy Corbyn or the Labour Party." A spokesperson for the party later clarified that "there is only one Labour Party candidate in Bradford West and that is Naz Shah."[54] In response, Yaqoob claimed that the statements made by Labour constituted "malicious accusations" and said that "Naz Shah’s petty political game is designed to discredit my campaign, which is focused on reversing the years of neglect in Bradford West."[54]

Labour Party[edit]

2020 West Midlands Mayoral Candidacy[edit]

In September 2019, Yaqoob announced that she had applied for the Labour Party (UK) candidacy for Mayor of the West Midlands in the 2020 West Midlands mayoral election, an executive position responsible for the metropolitan county of the West Midlands. The current position is held by Conservative Andy Street. Her campaign for the candidacy is framed around progressivism, anti-austeritism and the Green New Deal.[55]

Yaqoob's application was criticized in leaked emails written by Labour MP Naz Shah published in October 2019. In them, Shah stated that Yaqoob was 'unfit for office' following the 2017 campaign in which she stood against her, with Shah concluding: "I believe she endorsed misogyny, patriarchy and biradri politics". Yaqoob denied running such a campaign but issued a statement stating that: "I did not run or endorse a campaign of misogyny, patriarchy and clan politics. Even as a political opponent I showed her respect as a woman and a public figure". In the Guardian article Yaqoob said: "As shadow equalities and women minister, I would hope Naz Shah would welcome the principle of women coming forward for political office – even those she disagrees with. I am saddened that she is lobbying nationally to limit the right of local Labour members to make their own choice by seeking to remove me from even a potential shortlist." Yaqoob retained the support of Momentum head Jon Lansman, and was eventually endorsed by Momentum. [56]

Death threats[edit]

Yaqoob has received death threats from Islamist and far right extremists.

In 2005, she faced harassment and death threats from al Ghurabaa, an extremist-Islamist group later banned under the Terrorism Act 2006. Al-Ghurabaa claimed that it is apostasy for Muslims to participate in Western elections, and its members defaced her election posters with the word "Kafir".[57] Yaqoob believed she was being targeted for being a Muslim woman in the public eye and for working with churches and synagogues.[58][59]

In August 2009, Birmingham man Stuart Collins appeared in court charged with threatening to kill Yaqoob and with racially and religiously aggravated harassment.[60][61][62][63][64]

In 2013, she was threatened with having her throat cut in an online article which talked about "smashing Pakistani people, taking a nail bomb into a Mosque and rioting in Birmingham" and said: "If that Salma Yaqeubs (sic) there, cut her f*****g throat. [sic]"[65]

Personal life[edit]

Yaqoob married her first husband Dr Aqil Chaudary, a GP, in 1996; they have three sons.[66] Her family are supporters of Aston Villa F.C.[67][68][10][69]


In 2006, Yaqoob received the Lloyds TSB Asian Jewel Award for Public Service Excellence while Harper's Bazaar magazine named her in the top thirty list of British women, alongside Kate Winslet, all of whom they considered to be 'women shaping Britain'.[70]

In 2008, she was voted to eleventh place in the Birmingham Post's Power 50 list of the most influential people in the city. She was included in the newspaper's list again in 2009.[71][72] They called her "a doughty fighter for inner city areas". During this year, she was also included in The Daily Telegraph's annual list of 'Top 100 left wingers'.[73]

In 2009, Yaqoob was included in the Muslim Women Power List run by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in association with The Times and Emel magazine.[74][75][76]

In 2010, The Guardian newspaper in 2010, said Yaqoob was "the most prominent Muslim woman in British public life".[77]

In January 2015, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Birmingham City University.[78]

See also[edit]

List of British Pakistanis


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  • Solidarity in Practice, Salma Yaqoob (p. 60, Stop the War: The story of Britain's biggest mass movement, Andrew Murray and Lindsey German, ISBN 1-905192-00-2)

External links[edit]


Party political offices
Preceded by
Linda Smith
Leader of the Respect Party
Succeeded by
Arshad Ali