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UK election 2024: Is a unified pro-Gaza challenge to Labour emerging in Blackburn?

Former candidate Tiger Patel has urged his supporters to back the Workers Party's Craig Murray, leaving two rival pro-Gaza candidates in the race - as pressure mounts for one to stand down
Tiger Patel and Craig Murray talk after Patel stood down on Monday (Cllr Tiger Patel)
Tiger Patel and Craig Murray talk after Patel stood down on Monday (Cllr Tiger Patel)

The former British diplomat turned human rights activist Craig Murray received a massive boost in his campaign to become MP for Blackburn last night, as rival candidate Tiger Patel stood down.

In a shock development, Patel, a popular independent councillor who left the Conservative Party over Gaza, is now urging his supporters to vote for Murray, who is standing for George Galloway’s Workers Party.

His defection from the campaign leaves just two pro-Gaza independents left in a race to depose incumbent Labour MP Kate Hollern.

But Craig Murray and local solicitor Adnan Hussain are likely to cut into each other's support if both of them stay in the race, and pressure will now mount for one to stand down.

In a significant parting shot, Tiger Patel said in the future Hussain “will be a great leader, Insha’Allah.”

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But Patel added that 34-year-old Hussain, who runs a legal practice in Blackburn, currently “lacks the political experience and high-level contacts required to be an effective MP”.

He further called on Hussain to shadow Murray and “learn the ropes” from him.

By contrast, he said that Murray “possesses a wealth of experience and is well-known in the political arena for his steadfast commitment to human rights”.

Close adviser to the Assange family

The remarks about Murray’s human rights credentials now carry extra weight following the overnight release of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange from Belmarsh Prison.  

Murray’s election literature already carries an endorsement from Stella Assange, who describes the former ambassador as a “loyal friend and constant support for our family”.

UK elections 2024: Clashing pro-Gaza candidates boost Labour's chances in Blackburn
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Murray has been a close adviser to the Assange family as well a leading figure in the campaign to save the Wikileaks founder from extradition to the US

Murray told MEE on Tuesday that he “was in tears for most of last night” following the news of Assange’s release. 

He said that he was “delighted” by Patel’s announcement, adding: “I have always supported Tiger’s right to put himself forward and see him as an honourable and well-motivated man.

“I think that Tiger has shown the way to unite and I think that the door is open for Adnan to join us.”

MEE contacted Hussain for comment but did not receive a response by time of publication.

The northwestern ex-industrial town has been represented by Labour MPs for 69 years. 

But at this election, Labour faces the prospect of an electoral revolt by voters furious with the party leadership’s months-long support for Israel’s blockade and bombardment of Gaza. 

But the pro-Gaza, anti-Labour vote has been split throughout the campaign, making a victory for Labour incumbent Kate Hollern look all but certain. 

'I think that Tiger has shown the way to unite and I think that the door is open for Adnan to join us'

- Craig Murray, ex-diplomat and human rights activist

Last week, popular British Muslim news website 5Pillars suggested that Hussain and Murray both toss a coin to decide who should stand down. 

Murray publicly agreed to the proposal on 20 June with a “heavy heart”.

But Hussain, who has been endorsed by The Muslim Vote campaign, rejected it. 

A further controversy arose on Monday when Murray claimed that Hussain’s campaign manager is Ibrahim Master - who publicly supported Labour in the 2005 election.

In that election, Labour’s foreign secretary Jack Straw defeated Murray, who was standing in Blackburn in opposition to the Labour government’s invasion of Iraq.

Master, who has been photographed with Adnan Hussain, has denied being his campaign manager and said he left the Labour Party 18 months ago. 

This April, Jack Straw attacked Murray for announcing his candidacy, predicting that “the voters in the town will treat this candidacy with the contempt it deserves”.

There is only a week and a half left before the vote. 

If only one pro-Gaza candidate faces Labour at the election, he has a small chance of winning but could likely significantly reduce Labour’s 18,000 majority. 

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