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UK election 2024: Pro-Palestine independent beats Labour's Jon Ashworth in Leicester South

Shockat Adam, a 51-year-old local who ran on a pro-Gaza platform, won with 14,739 votes, defeating Shadow Cabinet minister Jon Ashworth by 979 votes
Shockat Adam, 51 (Imran Mulla/MEE)
Shockat Adam, 51 (Imran Mulla/MEE)

Independent pro-Palestine candidate Shockat Adam unseated Labour's Shadow Cabinet minister Jon Ashworth in the East Midlands constituency of Leicester South on Friday, in one of the biggest shocks in the UK general election.

Adam, a 51-year-old local, secured 14,739 votes, beating Ashworth by a slim margin of 979 votes, who received 13,760.

Leicester South had been a safe seat for the Labour Party for decades. Apart from a brief Liberal Democrat interlude in 2004 and 2005, widely seen as a protest against the Iraq war, the East Midlands constituency has had a Labour MP since 1987. 

"We as a city have done this," Adam declared in his victory speech shortly after the votes were counted.

"We as a city are a shining example to the rest of the world that it is the people that matter, not those that rule over [us]."

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"This is for the people of Gaza," he added as he raised aloft the Palestinian scarf known as the keffiyeh.

During the campaign, Adam told Middle East Eye that he decided to stand for parliament in an effort to disrupt the two-party system and represent people who felt they were no longer being heard by the political class. 

For months, many voters across the UK voiced dissatisfaction with the opposition Labour Party, especially over its early stance 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.

"The Palestinian cause is very close to the community’s heart yet when they needed a loud and clear and distinct voice it was lacking," he told MEE last month.

"How can we stand by when we are seeing massacre upon massacre?"

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.

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.

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Communicable diseases are rapidly spreading, and infant mortality has skyrocketed.

Although it was a spectacular night for Labour, with the party winning a landslide victory with at least 411 seats in the House of Commons, it performed badly in areas with a high proportion of Muslim voters in a sign of anger towards Keir Starmer over Labour's position on Israel's war in Gaza.

In one of the biggest shocks of the night, pro-Palestine candidate Iqbal Mohamed resoundly beat Labour incumbent Heather Iqbal by 6,934 votes, after securing 41.1 percent of the total vote share.

In the northwestern ex-industrial town of Blackburn, independent candidate Adnan Hussain narrowly defeated Labour's Kate Hollern by just 132 votes after the vote was split with another candidate, Craig Murray, who also stood on a pro-Gaza platform for George Galloway's Workers Party.

In Islington North, Jeremy Corbyn was reelected to the seat he has held since 1983 – but this time as an independent, rather than for Labour. He won with 49.2 percent of the vote, while the Labour candidate came in second with 34.4 percent.

In his victory speech, Corbyn said the voters of Islington North were "looking for a government that on the world stage will search for peace, not war, and not allow the terrible conditions to go on that are happening in Gaza at the present time."

And in Birmingham Perry Barr, independent Ayoub Khan defeated Labour incumbent Khalid Mahmood, who had held the seat since 2001, by 507 votes.

Meanwhile, in Holborn and St Pancras, Starmer held his London seat but with a significantly decreased majority - down 17 percent from the last election - whilst in Ilford North, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting saw his majority fall from more than 9,000 in 2019 to just 528 against 23-year-old Leanne Mohamad.

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