Pro-Brexit campaign group Leave.EU has apologised to Labour MP Naz Shah after a social media post left her facing abuse and death threats.
Naz Shah standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera© Provided by Evening Standard
Ms Shah began libel action against the group after it claimed in a Facebook post that she was a “grooming gangs apologist”.
Leave.EU has issued an apology which accepted that the Bradford West MP was a “vociferous campaigner for victims of grooming gangs”.
The Leave.EU statement said: “On December 16 2019 we posted a Facebook post which described Naz Shah MP as a ‘grooming gangs apologist’.
“While the publication had been intended to be satirical; we appreciate that it was ill-judged and untrue. We accept that Ms Shah is not an ‘apologist’ for grooming gangs but is a vociferous campaigner for victims of grooming gangs.
“We apologise for the distress caused by it and have paid Ms Shah damages for libel.”
The comment was part of a post making fun of possible contenders for the Labour Party leadership after Jeremy Corbyn said he would step down.
It was taken down on the same day, but not before it had received thousands of comments and shares.
Ms Shah said that she welcomed the apology but screenshots of the post were still used by people wanting to abuse her.
“I’m one of the most abused MPs on Twitter because of this allegation,” she said. “It’s horrible, it’s really horrible.”
She added: “The allegation of me being a grooming apologist has been horrendous.
“The fact they’ve accepted that I’m a vociferous campaigner against grooming is important to me.
“This is the kind of stuff that’s used against people in public life and other MPs. It’s just not fair. It’s just not right for it to happen.”
Ms Shah said the reaction to the post had affected her family, with her children asking: “Mum, why do you get so much hate, why do people hate you so much?”
She said: “It literally has been threats to my life at times.”
Ms Shah said she had never never “shied away” from the issue of grooming gangs and was campaigning against perpetrators long before she became an MP in 2015.
She said: “Islamic communities are absolutely appalled by it (child sexual exploitation). People I talk to are appalled by it.
“I’m on record talking about, I’ve talked about it on Asian media channels and to the community. It’s not something I’ve shied away from at all and I don’t intend to in the future.”
“I welcome the apology and just want to draw a line under it and get on.”
She added: “I’m not going to let a tweet that was up there for eight minutes, which was removed, define my life and my politics.”
Although Ms Shah said she could not discuss the damages paid by Leave.EU before consulting her legal team, she said: “I’m just happy with the apology. It was never about anything else.”
She said she still receives abuse on a daily basis.
A man was jailed for 12 weeks last year for sending an offensive email to Ms Shah which made racist taunts and violent threats, and accused her of antisemitism and trying to silence the victims of the Rotherham child abuse scandal.