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UK election 2024: British-Palestinian Leanne Mohamad narrowly loses to Labour's Wes Streeting

Streeting, a senior Labour figure, has been reelected with a slim majority, after Mohamad channelled local opposition to party's position on Gaza war
Leanne Mohamad is standing as the independent candidate for Ilford North (
Leanne Mohamad is standing as the independent candidate for Ilford North (

British-Palestinian independent candidate Leanne Mohamad has narrowly lost the race for Labour shadow health secretary Wes Streeting's seat in Ilford North by a margin of just 528 votes.

Mohamad secured 15,119 votes in Thursday's UK general election, comprising around 32.2 percent of the vote, while Streeting won the East London seat with 15,647 votes, around 33.4 percent of the vote, a significant drop from his 2019 majority of 5,000.

Conservative candidate Kaz Rizvi won far fewer votes than his party did in 2019, coming third with 9,619 votes.

In his victory speech early on Friday, Streeting criticised the Islamophobia that he said had been levelled against the 23-year-old Mohamad during the campaign, and reiterated his support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"To be pro-peace requires us to be both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine. That's where the majority of the British people are and that is where the majority of people within this borough are too," Streeting said, before hitting out at "those who spread lies during this election... claiming that Labour wants to privatise the NHS". 

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A stalwart of the Labour Party's right wing, Streeting had seen demonstrations outside his constituency office earlier this year over his stance on Gaza. He had repeatedly opposed a ceasefire and insisted on Israel's right to self-defence. 

A parliamentary source recently told Middle East Eye that Streeting regularly meets with the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) lobby group inside Westminster.

He was the first member of Labour's shadow cabinet to visit Israel after Starmer was elected leader, with LFI footing the £4,700 bill ($5,942). In February 2016, he visited Israel and the occupied West Bank, courtesy of Medical Aid for Palestinians. 

Wes Streeting Downing St
Wes Streeting arrives at Downing Street on 5 July 2024 (Reuters)

Streeting has also received donations totalling at least £15,000 from Trevor Chinn, an 88-year-old Jewish former businessman and longstanding supporter of LFI and other pro-Israel causes, including LFI's Tory counterpart Conservative Friends of Israel.

The Muslim Vote (TMV), a campaign supporting parliamentary candidates in constituencies with a significant Muslim electorate, paid tribute to Mohamad.

"You unified our community and showed us what we are capable of. You took on a seasoned politician with the weight of the Labour Party machine behind him to a razor thin margin," it said on social media.

"You put Gaza back on the ballot. You've created history and given us incredible hope for the future. You have shown our youth what is possible in politics with determination, character and faith."

Israel's war on Gaza, now nearing its tenth month, has destroyed large swaths of the besieged territory and forced nearly the entire population to flee their homes at least once.

Leanne Mohamad: Could anger over Gaza topple a Labour heavyweight?
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More than 38,000 people have been killed, the great majority of them women and children. Thousands more are missing or presumed to be dead under the rubble.

For months, many voters across the UK had voiced dissatisfaction with Labour, especially over the party's early stance on the war, when it called for an "enduring cessation of fighting" instead of a comprehensive ceasefire.

Although the party later shifted its position, many said they felt compelled to vote for an unwaveringly pro-ceasefire candidate and party.

A pro-Palestine campaigner for several years, Mohamad launched her campaign as an independent in January.

When she was 15, Mohamad won the regional final of the prestigious Jack Petchey Speak Out Challenge for a speech about the suffering of Palestinians. In her speech, Mohamad told an audience of 1,200 that the “time had come to stop the suffering of innocent children” in Palestine.

Speakers Trust, the London-based body behind the competition, then removed the video of her entry from its website, prompting an outcry.

According to the 2021 census, the London Borough of Redbridge (which contains Ilford North) has a Muslim population of 31.3 percent, and a number of polls have indicated Labour's support among the community has dropped as a result of the party's stance on Gaza.

"It's super strange, but it’s a duty," Mohamad told MEE on the campaign trail, when asked what it felt like to be running for parliament. "If we lose, well then at least we tried."

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