Labour supporter, 72, left in hospital after being attacked on doorstep while campaigning

‘He damaged his jaw to the point where he can’t eat properly,’ says friend

Chiara Giordano
Monday 25 November 2019 14:03 GMT
Labour supporter, 72, left in hospital after being attacked on doorstep while campaigning

An elderly Labour supporter was taken to hospital with a suspected broken jaw after he was attacked on a doorstep while campaigning in South Yorkshire.

The 72-year-old retired plasterer, who The Independent has chosen not to name, was allegedly assaulted by a man while canvassing in the village of Hellaby, in Rotherham, on Sunday afternoon.

Police have since arrested a 51-year-old man on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm (GBH).

Tony Griffin, 62, who knows the victim from the campaign trail, said the man ended up in A&E after suffering injuries to his jaw and teeth during the incident.

He told The Independent: “I don’t know exactly what this other person did apart from he punched him and damaged his jaw to the point where he can’t eat properly at the moment and needs dental work to a couple of teeth that have been chipped.

“I’ve stood on doorsteps quite close to him while he’s been saying what he says, he’s just a nice old bloke really. He’s the sort of person you can’t imagine saying something difficult or offensive.

“I sent him a message last night and he said he was determined to be back out canvassing today, depending on how it fitted in with his dental appointment. That’s just the sort of person he is.

“I can’t imagine him saying ‘boo’ to a goose. He is over six foot tall but a gentle giant.

“His vision is not fantastic and he doesn’t walk with a stick all of the time but we are not talking about someone who can run away very easily.”

He said: “An even closer friend of mine was in another constituency not far from where this happened last week and some bloke through a door with a chain on it was swearing at him, saying ‘I’ll shove this leaflet up your arse’.

“You’ve always had people who have just got very different views…but this does seem to be quite personalised against Jeremy Corbyn and therefore it tends to become personalised on the doorstep because of this assumption that you are there as his ambassador.”

Sophie Wilson, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Rother Valley, said the campaigner was in “good spirits” when she visited him in hospital on Sunday.

She told The Independent: “This was a vicious attack. I will say that I’m really shocked at this; Bob is one of the most gentle people I know.

“He is just out every single day fighting for what he believes in, fighting for a better world for his kids and grandkids.

“We should all remember in politics that, while we might have political disagreements, the underlying similarity we all have is that we are all trying to change the world for the better.

“I just hope that this attack doesn’t silence anyone.

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“On the doorstep people are generally very nice. I’ve never known anyone to get punched.”

Sarah Grant, chair of Rotherham constituency Labour Party, tweeted on Sunday evening: “My 72 year old comrade, who has a walking stick, was assaulted today door knocking in Hellaby in the Rother Valley constituency.

“He is currently at Rotherham District General Hospital undergoing treatment for facial injuries.”

South Yorkshire Police said in a statement: “We received a call at 4.06pm on Sunday, 24 November.

“The caller reported that a 70-year-old man had been assaulted by a known man on Parkstone Crescent in Hellaby, Rotherham.

“The 70 year-old man has been taken to hospital with a suspected broken jaw.

“A 51-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm.

“He remains in police custody.”

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