The man who ran on stage during the Labour Party conference to throw glitter on Sir Keir Starmer says he “crossed the line”.
Yaz Ashmawi has admitted to tipping glitter over the Opposition leader and grabbing him just before he delivered a speech in Liverpool on Tuesday. Speaking to the Politics Uncensored podcast on Fubar Radio, Ashmawi said he took “responsibility” for what he did and apologised for making Sir Keir feel unsafe.
He told show host Ali Milani on Thursday: “The thought that, even for a moment, he felt that he was in danger is horrible to think about. I think it is absolutely fine to pour glitter on someone and to go onto the stage. I just think it is physical contact that crossed the line there.”
Asked whether he would like to apologise to the Opposition leader, he said: “Yes, absolutely. I’m sorry for doing that.”
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Merseyside Police confirmed it arrested a 28-year-old man from Surrey on suspicion of assault, breach of the peace and causing public nuisance following the stunt. On Thursday, the force said the man — who Ashmawi has confirmed is him — has been bailed pending further inquiries.
Ashmawi says he was kept in a cell for 22 hours after the arrest. He says he carried out the protest because he is part of a group called People Demand Democracy, which is calling for reform of the political system.
The campaigner said the group wanted to see an “upgraded form of democracy”, suggesting it backed a more proportional electoral system. After throwing the glitter over Sir Keir, Ashmawi shouted “true democracy is citizen-led”.
The protester continued to shout “politics needs an update”, “we demand a people’s house”, “we are in crisis” and “our whole future is in jeopardy” as he was wrestled to the ground. Ashmawi said he used some chairs to hoist himself up and he “hopped” onto the stage where Sir Keir was standing waiting for the applause to subside before addressing those at the ACC Liverpool conference centre.
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He said: “The thing is, I put my hand on his arm and touched him and I think… politicians, they get a lot of death threats and they have a need to feel safe and I compromised that in that moment by touching him.”
He added: “If Mr Starmer felt that he was threatened… I take responsibility for that, I want to take full responsibility for my actions.”
Sir Keir pushed the activist away from the microphone with his right arm before security arrived. After removing his jacket, the Labour leader said “if he thinks that bothers me, he doesn’t know me”, before beginning his speech with glitter on the shoulders of his white shirt.
Sir Keir, who has repeatedly highlighted how he has reformed the party since Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, said “protest or power, this is why we changed our party”. Since the incident, Labour has been advertising £20 T-shirts for sale with the slogan: “Sparkle with Starmer”.
The party’s leader has said he was determined not to let an “idiot” get in the way of him delivering his speech. In interviews after the incident, Sir Keir said he checked his wife, Victoria, who was in the front row of the conference hall, was all right before continuing.
He admitted to Sky News that the incident “could have been a lot worse”, with questions raised about the level of security in place for the politician who could be the next prime minister.
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