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UK election 2024: Labour leader Keir Starmer's vote share slashed by Gaza protest vote

Starmer, who is set to become prime minister, retained his London seat but saw local support fall by 17 percent
Keir Starmer, the incumbent candidate, won in the London constituency with 18,884 votes - down 17 percent from the last election (Reuters/File photo)

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer held his London seat of Holborn and St Pancras in the UK general election on Friday, but with a significantly decreased share of the vote.

Starmer won he London constituency with 18,884 votes - down 17 percent from the last election - while former South African MP and anti-apartheid campaigner Andrew Feinstein came second with 7,312 votes.

Speaking after the vote count, Starmer said the UK was bathing in the "sunlight of hope" after Labour won in landslide, bringing a crushing end to 14 years of Conservative rule.

The result means that Starmer, who has moved Labour to the right since succeeding Jeremy Corbyn as leader in 2020, will become the party's first prime minister since 2010.

Starmer said people waking up to the news that Labour had secured more than 400 seats in the 650 House of Commons, would be "relieved that a weight has been lifted, a burden finally removed."

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Still, Labour faced a series of losses in key areas across the country early on Friday, and Starmer's drop in support will be a cause of concern for the leader as his position on the war on Gaza proved divisive among many voters.

Last month, in a wide-ranging interview with Middle East Eye's Unapologetic podcast, Feinstein accused Starmer of being "deeply unpopular", "terrible on Gaza", and possessing authoritarian and undemocratic qualities.

"His (Starmer's) policies are very similar to the policies of the Conservative Party in many senses," said Feinstein, who served as a parliamentarian with the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa between 1994 and 2001, and was first elected under Nelson Mandela.

"He's been terrible on Gaza. He seems to have in his politics, a sort of authoritarian, almost undemocratic streak to him. And so for someone whose party is so far ahead in the polls, he has an unfavourability rating of around minus 31, which is very, very high. 

"So in that sense, yes, there's a small chance [of me unseating him]."

Born in apartheid South Africa in the 1960s, Feinstein, the son of a Holocaust survivor, served as an MP for Nelson Mandela's African National Congress (ANC) during the first post-apartheid elections in South Africa in 1994.

After resigning from his seat in 2001, he moved to the UK and joined the Labour Party in 2015, becoming a supporter of its left-wing faction under former leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Starmer, a lawyer who was previously the head of the Crown Prosecution Service, has held Holborn and St Pancras since he was first elected as an MP in 2015.

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