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UK: Labour vote share in Muslim-majority areas 'down by one third'

Opposition party loses 33 percentage points in areas with large Muslim communities, driven by its stance on Israel's war on Gaza
UK Labour Party leader Keir Starmer embraces newly elected East Midlands Mayor Claire Ward during a post local election rally in Mansfield, central England on 4 May 2024 (AFP/Darren Staples)
Labour Party leader Keir Starmer embraces newly elected East Midlands Mayor Claire Ward during a rally in Mansfield, central England on 4 May (AFP/Darren Staples)

The UK Labour party lost a third of its vote share in areas with a Muslim majority during recent local elections, likely driven by its stance on Israel's war on Gaza, according to a new report.

Based on analysis by Number Cruncher Politics, first reported by ITV News on Tuesday, the opposition party lost 33 percentage points in areas with mostly Muslim residents on 2 May.

British voters went to the polls earlier this month to elect local councillors, mayors and police and crime commissioners. 

While Labour saw gains across much of the country, there was a marked drop in support among Muslims, largely due to its failure to call for a ceasefire in Gaza sooner.

In local council wards with over 70 percent Muslim populations, Labour lost 39 percentage points of its vote share. In several of these areas, independent candidates stood against the mainstream parties, often campaigning solely on the issue of the Gaza war.

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In the West Midlands mayoral contest, Labour's Richard Parker beat the Conservative incumbent Andy Street by just 1,500 votes.

The small margin of victory was partly attributed to independent candidate Akhmed Yakoob, who made Israel's war a big part of his campaign and received nearly 70,000 votes.

Yakoob has indicated that he will stand in parliamentary elections later this year in the seat of Birmingham Ladywood, against Labour's Shabana Mahmood.

Independent candidates focused on the issue of Gaza are expected to run against Labour in several areas of the UK in the upcoming general election. That includes Ilford North, where British-Palestinian activist Leanne Mohamad is running against Labour's shadow health secretary Wes Streeting.

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Pollsters told ITV News that the dip in Labour support in Muslim areas was unlikely to have a huge impact on the general election, due to those areas being most strongly Labour.

Earlier this week, a survey by YouGov found that more than two-thirds of British people want a ceasefire in Gaza. British people were also significantly more likely to sympathise with the Palestinian side compared to the Israelis.

Both the UK opposition Labour party and the ruling Conservatives backed Israel's war on Gaza, although Labour has since called for a humanitarian ceasefire.

YouGov researchers also found that a majority of people in the country want a ban on the sale of weapons to Israel.

A total of 56 percent either strongly support or somewhat support a ban, with 36 percent saying strongly. Just 20 percent oppose a ban, with 11 percent saying they felt strongly.

Israel has killed at least 35,000 Palestinians since the start of the war on 7 October, when Hamas-led fighters attacked southern Israel, resulting in the deaths of 1,125 people and the taking of around 250 others captive.

Around 133 Israelis and other nationals remain in captivity in Gaza but the number of those still living is believed to be significantly lower as Hamas says dozens have been killed by Israeli bombardment.

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