• Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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‘Muslim voters discontent with Labour more likely to be felt in bypolls’

Professor Maria Sobolewska said although the Israel-Gaza situation was important to Muslim voters, it will be other issues closer to home that will take priority during a general election

(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)

By: Sarwar Alam

MARIA SOBOLEWSKA, a professor of political science at the University of Manchester, told Eastern Eye Muslim voters’ discontent with the Labour Party would more likely be felt in by-elections rather than the general election.

She said although the Israel-Gaza situation was important to Muslim voters, during a general election, it will be other issues closer to home that will take priority when voters decide who to cast their ballots for. “Muslim voters are the same as any other voters. Foreign policy for them and the issue of Palestine and Gaza are just one of the issues they care about – but not all of them will put that as number one.

“You still see a lot of voters caring more about the NHS, the economy, the cost of living crisis – all of those things would still trump the considerations of the situation in Gaza,” said Sobolewska.

“By-elections are not run on ‘let’s change the government issues’, so we see what is called expressive voting, where people vote more on their principles and more as a protest vote, expressing frustration with both sides.

Maria Sobolewska

“The by-election is just the one seat. This is a very good time to send the message to both parties, declaring ‘you have to change your stance and we’re not happy’.

“For Muslim voters, it can be a message to Labour saying, ‘we feel like you’ve abandoned us’.

“However, when it comes to the general election, people are much more likely to vote in a strategic manner and what’s best for the country, overall. And Muslim voters, like any other voters, they live in the same country and I think they are fed up with this government more than what’s happening abroad.”

Sobolewska cast doubt on the over all impact of the Muslim vote on the next general election. Muslims tend to live in Labour safe seats, and there aren’t many that would change hands just on the back of the Muslim vote, she said.

Research from the thinktank British Future found that while Labour risks losing “significant numbers of Muslim voters”, it was unlikely to lose “even a handful of seats” as a result at the upcoming election.

Its findings showed the general election challenge for independent candidates is that almost no Westminster constituencies could be won with an appeal to a single minority group.

“Muslim voters might say, ‘we are leaving the Labour Party because of Keir Starmer’s stance on Gaza’, but they have nowhere to go, because it was pretty much the stance of all the parties,” said Sobolewska.

“I suspect even though British Muslims, maybe in greater numbers, will say ‘Labour is not my party, I don’t feel they represent me’, when push comes to shove at the general election, their choice comes to letting in the Conservative government or voting Labour, they’ll hold their noses and vote Labour.”

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