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UK: Labour Party source blames Hamas for expected West Midlands mayoral loss

Source told the BBC that the Gaza war had cost the party several seats, saying 'Hamas are the real villains'
Protesters hold placards and wave Palestinian flags as they walk through central London during a 'March For Palestine', on 28 October 2023 (MEE/Mohammad Saleh)

The UK’s Labour Party is widely expected to lose the West Midlands mayoral election to incumbent Andy Street, with one senior Labour Party source blaming the Palestinian movement Hamas for the electoral loss.

Results are still to be declared in the election, with votes set to be counted at 3pm on Saturday. But a senior Labour Party source told the BBC on Friday that the war on Gaza had cost the party several seats.

"It's the Middle East, not West Midlands, that will have won [Conservative candidate] Andy Street the mayoralty," the senior party source said.

"Once again Hamas are the real villains."

The quote immediately drew fierce criticism both inside and outside of the Labour Party, with another Labour source calling the quote "racist", whilst a Conservative source described it as "vile".

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MEE reached out to the Labour Party for further comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

Heading into the vote, there were already concerns that independent candidate Akhmed Yakoob would win the support of many in the Muslim community around Birmingham, largely due to Labour Party leader Keir Starmer's unabashed support for Israel and his hesitation in calling for a ceasefire.

Labour Party sources have suggested that Yakoob, who is backed by George Galloway's Workers Party of Britain, is expected to come third in some areas of the West Midlands, siphoning enough votes away from Labour to cost them victory.

'I said Keir Starmer would pay a high price for his betrayal on Palestine'

- George Galloway, Workers Party of Britain

Speaking to the media, a triumphant Galloway said: "Our candidate in the West Midlands looks like he may have cost Labour the mayoralty.

"I said Keir Starmer would pay a high price for his betrayal on Palestine. Today is the start of that."

Failure to unseat Andy Street, the Tory mayor of the West Midlands, would represent a significant setback for Starmer and comes after Labour lost control of Oldham on Friday with independents, some campaigning in support of Palestine, gaining five seats and pushing the council into no overall control.

Labour stacked up gains across England in the local elections but support appeared to drop in some areas with large Muslim voters, a sign of the damage done by the party's position on the devastating Israeli assault on Gaza.

Starmer has faced criticism by some within his party for not speaking out enough about Israel's military bombardment of Gaza, and over his party’s slow position towards supporting a Gaza ceasefire. Last November, his reluctance to back a ceasefire vote led to 10 frontbenchers resigning in protest.

He also caused a stir by saying in the aftermath of the 7 October attack on Israel that it had the right to cut off water and electricity to Gaza.

UK Labour Party position on Gaza blamed for Oldham election loss
Read More »

Pat McFadden, the party’s national election co-ordinator, conceded that Labour's position on the war had "been a factor in some places", telling the BBC "I don’t think there's any point in denying it."

But he added that the party had been "losing seats in Oldham for a few years".

Darren Jones, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, also admitted that the loss of support amongst Muslim voters was worrying for the party.

He told LBC: "We're very sad about that. There's no denying that in some parts of the country, where some independent candidates have run for the first time, they’ve attracted voters that we would want in the Labour family.

"That shows we've got more work to do to listen to and learn from and support voters across the country and try to persuade them to vote for Labour when they get the chance."

Asked if he was concerned that his party's stance on Gaza had cost some seats at the local elections, Starmer avoided the question, instead telling the BBC that he was "concerned wherever we lose votes".

"There's no denying that across the country, whether it's Hartlepool in the north or Rushmoor in the south or Redditch, a bellwether seat, we are winning votes across the country," he said.

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