A strictly Orthodox Jew who is a candidate in the Manchester mayor election should not run for the office because he refuses to shake hands with women, a fellow mayor hopeful has suggested.
Ukip’s Shneur Odze was attacked during a hustings last weekend by Liberal Democrat candidate Jane Brophy.
Mr Odze avoids contact with women under religious modesty laws, and panellists at the event were asked about his refusal to shake hands with women during political meetings.
Ms Brophy told the audience at the event in Manchester: “Personally it shocked me. I’m sure he’s a lovely gentleman, but when I met him for the first time he shook Andy’s hand, he shook Sean’s hand, but he didn’t shake my hand.
“I think if you’re standing for a position then religion shouldn’t come into it. I should be treated equally as a woman, as a candidate, as everybody here.”
A man in the audience shouted: “Is that what the Liberal Democrats are saying? Because he’s an Orthodox Jew his faith shouldn’t count?”
Ms Brophy, who represents the Timperley ward on Trafford Council in south-west Manchester, responded: “If you’re going to stand for the position of elected mayor, you need to treat people with equal respect. Of course within his community that is for their community to decide how to treat people individually, but I’m not from his community and I think I should be treated equally as a woman.”
Her comments were loudly applauded by the audience.
Mr Odze told the JC that while some people question his decision not to shake hands with women, “none have yet been so divisive to suggest ‘some’ people have no place in public life.
“I’m not sure who else she wishes to exclude from public life, but I suggest she start with herself. After all, how can she claim to represent parents of children in Greater Manchester’s faiths schools?”
On Tuesday Ms Brophy said: “I have complete respect for people of all religions, but if Mr Odze doesn’t want to shake a woman candidate’s hand, then he shouldn’t shake any candidate’s hand.
“In a fair and tolerant society, a candidate from any party, and none, all genders and none, should be treated equally and fairly. And in this situation, I don’t believe I was.”
The election takes place in May 4, with Labour candidate Andy Burnham the favourite to win.
Three years ago there was a furore when the Times claimed Mr Odze’s stance led to an internal party row over his candidacy in the 2014 European Parliament elections.
A former Ukip regional organiser claimed he had quit the party, believing the Lubavitcher’s stance would alienate women voters.