Labour wins UK elections in landslide, but suffers losses in heavily Muslim areas

Labour lost a handful of former strongholds to independent candidates standing on pro-Palestinian tickets.

Britain's Labour Party Prime Minister Keir Starmer walks back after speaking to the media and supporters in London, Friday, July 5, 2024. Labour leader Starmer won the general election on July 4, and was appointed Prime Minister by King Charles III at Buckingham Palace, after the party won a landslide victory. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

LONDON (RNS) — New British Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer celebrated a massive election victory on Friday after the Labour Party gained power with a landslide, securing a 170-seat parliamentary majority. Yet, losses in a handful of former strongholds — to independent candidates standing on pro-Palestinian tickets — suggests the new government will have work to do when it comes to earning back the trust of Muslim voters. 

Perhaps the biggest upset of the night was the defeat of one of Starmer’s loyal lieutenants, the shadow work and pensions secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, who lost his Leicester South seat, despite previously having a 22,000 majority.

Independent candidate Shockat Adam, who ousted Ashworth after 13 years as MP for Leicester South, won by just 979 votes. After his victory was announced, he said “this is for Gaza.”

Leading up to the election, organizers had conducted an intense drive to encourage Muslims to vote and to support candidates who had been more vocally supportive of Gaza and a cease-fire than official Labour candidates.

Among the other seats where Labour lost to independent candidates who made Gaza a key issue were:

  • Birmingham Perry Barr, where Labour’s Khalid Mahmood lost by 507 votes to Independent Ayoub Khan.
  • Dewsbury and Batley, where Independent candidate Iqbal Mohamed smashed the Labour vote to gain the West Yorkshire seat by 15,641 votes to the 8,707 votes for Labour candidate Heather Iqbal.
  • Blackburn, where the Lancashire seat was won by Independent Adnan Hussain (10,518 votes), ousting sitting MP Labour’s Kate Hollern (10,386). The Labour vote fell by 39.3% from the last election in 2019.
  • Also elected in London seat Islington North was former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, standing as an Independent, who told voters that “Palestine is on the ballot.” He defeated the Labour candidate by more than 7,000 votes.

Although Labour said in its manifesto that it is committed to recognizing a Palestinian state, critics of its policy said its call in February for a humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza was too late.

Other leading Labour politicians came close to defeat in constituencies with strong Muslim populations. Wes Streeting, who is likely to be in Starmer’s cabinet, clung on by just 528 votes after a challenge by Independent candidate Leane Mohamad. Jess Phillips, a senior Labour figure, saw her majority slashed from 13,141 in 2019 to just 693 this year, with Workers Party candidate Jody McIntyre, also critical of Labour on Gaza, at her heels.

David Lammy, who is the likeliest candidate to be Starmer’s Foreign Secretary, told the BBC that Labour would “work with partners to seek Palestinian recognition.”

One Labour MP, Zarah Sultana, who increased the Labour vote by 3.45 percent in inner-city Coventry South, said her party’s position was “a stain on its record,” and that it had taken a long time to move in the right direction.

Donate to Support Independent Journalism!

Donate Now!