Labour set to weather storm of dwindling Muslim support
Sir Keir Starmer’s stance on the Gaza conflict, sparked considerable discontent among Labour MPs representing areas with significant Muslim populations
(L-R) Britain’s main opposition Labour Party deputy leader Angela Rayner, Britain’s main opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer and Britain’s main opposition Labour Party National Campaign Coordinator Shabana Mahmood pose on arrival at the Hilton Brighton Metropole hotel on the opening day of the annual Labour Party conference in Brighton, on the south coast of England on September 25, 2021 (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer finds himself navigating a challenging political landscape, marked by a noticeable shift in support from Muslim constituents due to his stance on the Gaza conflict.
But despite this, analyses suggest that Labour’s robust lead may mitigate the potential impact on election outcomes, sparing the party from losing any seats it currently holds, though possibly affecting outcomes in a few Tory-dominated areas, The Times reported.
Starmer’s view on the Gaza conflict has sparked considerable discontent among Labour MPs representing areas with significant Muslim populations.
This discontent is further fuelled by the candidacy of George Galloway in Rochdale’s upcoming by-election, supported by The Muslim Vote—a group aimed at influencing Labour through grassroots pressure.
Amid these dynamics, Shabana Mahmood, the shadow justice secretary and Labour’s most senior Muslim MP has been actively advocating for a more assertive approach towards achieving a ceasefire and supporting a two-state solution.
Mahmood expressed concerns over the erosion of trust within the Muslim community towards Labour, emphasising the need for reconciliation and unity amidst local tensions exacerbated by the conflict.
“British Muslims are feeling a very strong sense of pain,” she said on Friday (9).
She further added, “It’s really important to me to be able to advocate for what people are feeling, why it means so much to them.”
Mahmood expressed her commitment to fostering unity within communities amid increasing local unrest reported by numerous MPs due to the conflict. She highlighted that Starmer’s interview, which seemed to endorse Israel’s actions to disconnect Gaza’s power and water supply, had deeply troubled many.
However, Mahmood believes her role in the shadow cabinet is crucial, focusing on navigating the intricate and challenging diplomatic endeavor of achieving a ceasefire.
A survey this week highlighted a dramatic dip in Labour’s Muslim support, dropping from 86% to 60% since the last election. However, detailed analysis suggests that this decline may not translate into significant seat losses for Labour, primarily due to the party’s stronghold in areas with large Muslim populations.
Using estimates of Muslim populations in England and Wales, The Times analysed the impact of decreased Muslim support on Labour’s prospects, based on a YouGov MRP poll projecting a 120-seat Labour majority.
This diminished support could result in significant vote losses for Labour in Birmingham, Bradford, and east London, areas with Muslim populations over 40%. But despite these losses, these seats are expected to remain securely Labour with large majorities.
Conversely, the reduced support might allow the Tories to marginally retain eight seats, such as Aylesbury, Wyre & Preston North, and Pendle, that might have otherwise supported Labour.
Polling expert Sir John Curtice noted that Labour has seen a decline in support primarily in constituencies it already controls, with an uptick in support in areas currently held by the Tories, a trend that positions Labour for a comfortable victory.
“With Labour at this kind of level, it isn’t going to cost them very much even if there is a marked fall off in Muslim support,” he said.
Labour’s support has decreased by an average of 1.7 percentage points since 2019 in the seats it holds, closely mirroring the 2.1-point drop in the top 100 seats with the highest Muslim population.
Initially, the decrease in support from Muslim voters caused concern among MPs, but now, some believe that the impact on community relations is more significant than the potential loss of seats.
Campaign leaders for the party anticipate a return of many Muslim voters.
However, The Muslim Vote is providing alternatives for disillusioned voters.
Established in December, due to frustration over MPs not supporting a ceasefire in Gaza, it is supported by groups such as the Muslim Association of Britain, Muslim Council of Wales, and Muslim Council of Scotland.
The group plans to carry out door-to-door campaigns and encourage voting in various constituencies, based on the recommendations of its local members.
Rochdale, Greater Manchester, is a key focus area, where it supports former Labour MP George Galloway in the upcoming by-election, triggered by the passing of Sir Tony Lloyd.
The Muslim Vote said that it was motivated by the response to the conflict in Gaza and dissatisfaction with mainstream parties’ stances. The group, which is not aligned with any political party, aims to collaborate with MPs from any party who support their goals.
Highlighting a unique unity within the Muslim community, they target constituencies with significant Muslim populations where MPs have not supported a ceasefire, endorsing candidates favoured locally, regardless of their political affiliation.
The group emphasises that it operates without a singular leader, driven instead by its supporting organisations.