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'Labour is 30,000 dead Gazans too late': Muslim campaign aims to disrupt UK politics

A new Muslim campaign is supporting independent candidates to run in the UK's upcoming election against MPs who have opposed a ceasefire
Labour leader Keir Starmer (AFP)
Labour leader Keir Starmer has given unconditional support to Israel during its war on Gaza (AFP)

A new Muslim campaign supporting independent candidates to run in Britain’s general election has slammed the Labour Party's concern over losing Muslim support as "30,000 dead Gazans too late".

The Guardian reported on Tuesday that Labour leader Keir Starmer’s office is conducting polling and holding focus groups with British Muslims across the country, amid mounting fears among party officials that many Muslims who have previously supported Labour may not vote for the party because of its support for Israel's war on Gaza.

Contributing to Labour’s fears is a grassroots group called The Muslim Vote (TMV), which has been endorsed by the Muslim Association of Britain, the Muslim Council of Scotland, the Muslim Council of Wales, Muslim Engagement and Development (Mend) - and other Muslim civil society groups. 

TMV says it has "thousands" of volunteers ready to support independent local political campaigns in constituencies which have a significant Muslim electorate and members of parliament who failed to vote for a ceasefire. 

"Local communities will be empowered to back a candidate that is pro-Palestine and pro-peace," TMV’s website says.

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A spokesperson for TMV told Middle East Eye that in constituencies where it thinks it has an audience and "an independent approach makes sense", it will support independent candidates "with tech resources, networks, advice and data, as well as volunteers and help with funding".

Labour has faced heavy criticism over the leadership’s support for Israel’s war on Gaza. Resignations of Labour councillors in late October after Starmer said Israel "had the right" to withhold power and water from Gaza were reportedly dismissed by a senior Labour source as the party "shaking off the fleas".

But yesterday the Guardian quoted a Labour frontbencher as saying: "We know we’ve lost the Muslim vote and at the very least their trust. The Muslim community is no longer a safe voter base for us because of how we initially responded to the war. So we’re just focused on damage control. We all know it.”

A senior Labour MP described Muslims as "geographically important", since many live in "key target seats in both the south and the north-west".

'The mask has slipped'

TMV's spokesperson told MEE that Labour’s "mask has slipped and the ugly maw of political self-interest has been exposed. We cannot unsee that.

"They have run a grim calculation that they can afford to back genocide and lose Muslim votes and still win."

He added that the people involved in TMV are "serious, they're here for the long-term, and they are unlikely to be won over in the same corrupt back-office Baradari system deals of old." Baradari is a South Asian term for clan politics.

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MEE also spoke to Muhammad Jalal, a lecturer in politics and host of The Thinking Muslim podcast, who has been supporting The Muslim Vote unofficially and talking to campaigners around the country.

Speaking to MEE in a personal capacity, he said the Labour leadership's concern about the Muslim vote "comes out of a place of desperation", and that there are "numerous constituencies where the Muslim vote can swing the seat".

Jalal described TMV as a "means to unifying the Muslim vote and showing our collective strength".

The developments come as one frontbench Labour MP, Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting, faces a challenge from British-Palestinian independent candidate Leanne Mohamad for his east London seat, which has a Muslim population of 31.3 per cent.

Streeting has repeatedly refused to call for a ceasefire and insisted on Israel’s right to self-defence. But on Tuesday he told LBC’s Andrew Marr that Britain has a "responsibility to recognise a Palestinian state" and needs to "work around the Israeli government because they have shown they're not partners for peace".

Many people online are interpreting his comments as evidence of Labour’s increasing concern over losing voters. 

They come after Foreign Secretary David Cameron said on Tuesday that Britain will consider recognising a Palestinian state.

The position is in stark contrast to comments made by Labour leader Starmer on 16 January, in which he reversed Labour’s promise to recognise a Palestinian state unilaterally and said it can only do so as part of a two-state solution. 

In another east London constituency of Tower Hamlets, lawyer Tasnime Akunjee has announced that he plans to stand against Labour MP Rushanara Ali, who did not vote for a ceasefire in Parliament. 

Support for Corbyn

Labour’s Muslim support dropped significantly in 2004 due to the Iraq war, climbing up again by 2015, when 64 percent of Muslims voted for Labour. Muslim support for the party peaked at over 80 percent with Jeremy Corbyn as leader.

It is unclear how far Labour’s Muslim support has declined since the start of the Gaza war on 7 October.

A poll released by Muslim Census on 17 October found a 66 percent drop in Muslim support for Labour - which would potentially mean a loss of potentially 1.5 million voters for the party. But another poll by Savanta in November found that 84 percent of Muslims who voted Labour in 2019 said they would do so again.

'In a decade's time no political party should be able to take the Muslim vote for granted again'

- Muhammad Jalal

Now, senior party figures are reportedly concerned that a loss in Muslim support could lead to defeat in over a dozen seats across the country.

Another possibility that could draw voters away from Labour is a left-wing movement that former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is reportedly considering launching.

In early January, the Daily Mail quoted friends of Corbyn who said the movement would seek to appeal to Muslim voters, as well as others, who oppose Starmer’s support for Israel’s war on Gaza.

Muhammad Jalal told MEE he had "been up and down the country" and seen "utter dismay at Labour". He believes that a long-term movement of Muslims away from Labour is coming.

TMV’s spokesperson echoed these sentiments. "This is not a movement of protest," he said. "This is a movement of infrastructural change.

"In a decade's time no political party should be able to take the Muslim vote for granted again."

MEE approached the Labour Party for comment but received no reply by the time of publication.

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