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UK Labour MPs 'could lose seats' in areas with high Muslim populations

Several lawmakers have 'fight on their hands' in general election next month, say Labour sources, due to stance on war in Gaza
Labour leader Keir Starmer speaks to the press in Blackpool, north-west England, on 3 May 2024 (AFP/Oli Scarff)
Labour leader Keir Starmer speaks to the press in Blackpool, north-west England, on 3 May (AFP/Oli Scarff)

Senior UK Labour MPs in constituencies with high Muslim populations could lose their seats due to the party's stance on Israel's war on Gaza, according to a new report. 

Citing Labour insiders, the Daily Mail reported that several opposition lawmakers were at risk in the upcoming general election, which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced would take place on 4 July. 

In several areas with large Muslim populations, pro-Palestinian independent candidates are running to challenge incumbent Labour politicians. 

That includes British-Palestinian activist Leanne Mohamad standing against shadow health secretary Wes Streeting in Ilford North, and former South African MP Andrew Feinstein standing against Labour leader Keir Starmer in Holborn and St Pancras. 

"Wes [Streeting], Shabana [Mahmood], Rushanara [Ali], Jess [Phillips] and others will have real fights on their hands," a senior Labour insider told the Daily Mail, listing Labour MPs with a sizeable proportion of Muslim constituents. 

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"Independents showed they can make gains in the locals which will bolster their campaigns and also give wavering voters a bit of a nudge towards them."

Analysis published last week found that Labour lost a third of its vote share in areas with a Muslim majority during recent local elections. 

Small margins

Based on analysis by Number Cruncher Politics, the opposition party lost 33 percentage points in areas with mostly Muslim residents when Britain headed to the polls on 2 May.

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.

UK Labour says party needs to rebuild trust with Muslims after Gaza backlash
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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 this year in the seat of Birmingham Ladywood, against Labour's Shabana Mahmood.

Ali Milani, the chairman of the Labour Muslim Network, said: 'This changed Labour Party cannot leave Muslim voters in the rearview mirrors. We cannot dismantle a decades-long relationship between Muslim voters and the Labour Party."

Earlier this month, 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 more than 35,000 Palestinians since the start of the war on 7 October, when Hamas-led fighters attacked southern Israel, resulting in the deaths of 1139 people, including 764 civilians, 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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