1st June, 2022 2:36 pm
Yvette Cooper’s son heckled Nadhim Zahawi at Warwick ‘transphobe’ protest
One of the student LGBT activists who heckled Nadhim Zahawi at a university event where he was escorted off campus by security is the son of the Labour politicians Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper.
Joel Cooper, a second-year economics student at Warwick University, was among a group of about 30 protesters who challenged the education secretary on Friday over his views on transgender rights.
While Cooper was inside the lecture theatre where the minister was speaking, a group stood outside shouting “Tory scum” and “Zahawi is a transphobe”, banging on the door and waving placards.
The 20-year-old is on the executive board of Warwick Plan, a university society that aims to help students achieve their career aspirations regardless of their “gender identity or sexuality”. He had gained access to the room where Zahawi had been invited to speak to the university’s Conservative Association.
In a video obtained by the political website Guido Fawkes, Cooper can be seen challenging the minister on transgender rights while being heckled by other members of the audience.
Zahawi, 54, later said Cooper was “very polite” and spoke to him about how schools can help children who are transgender.
“We will never deny biology but we must always show kindness, tolerance and love when discussing these issues,” the MP for Stratford-upon-Avon tweeted.
Cooper claims he and other activists were blacklisted from the event “purely because they were LGBT” , something he said limited his right to free speech.
As the event finished, protesters rushed towards Zahawi and “landed one blow” on the head of a member of the Conservative Association, The Daily Telegraph reported. Tom Garth, 20, the association’s chairman and a politics student, told the paper: “Then when Zahawi was exiting with security, they continued and tried to follow him all the way to his car, trying to get as close as possible to him.”
LGBT rights activists at the university had earlier released an open letter accusing Zahawi of “inciting hatred”, and claimed he “plays a significant role in institutionalised transphobia”. They objected to Zahawi saying he defined a woman as an “adult human female”, calling it a “common transphobic dog whistle”.
Cooper is the second child of the Labour couple. His mother is the shadow home secretary and his father is a former shadow chancellor who lost his seat in 2015.
A spokesman for the university’s Conservative Association said: “We were thankful to the campus community safety team for the work they did to help us run the event. Without them it would not have been safe to hold the event both for members or the secretary of state.
“The anger and hatred aimed at us that evening only scratches the surface when it comes to revealing what protesters actually feel towards those they disagree with.”
Warwick Pride said it did not condone violence of any kind. Yvette Cooper and Ed Balls have been approached for comment.
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