Labour leader calls for reclaiming Muslim voters’ trust

Labour party lost out to independents, the Worker’s Party of Britain, and the Green party in areas with large Muslim populations

File photo of Ellie Reeves, Labour’s Deputy National Campaign Coordinator. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Shajil Kumar

While Labour party sounds upbeat about its performance in the just-concluded local elections, its disappointing show in areas with a sizeable Muslim population is worrying its leaders.

The latest to express concern is deputy campaign coordinator Ellie Reeves who admitted the party had “a lot of work to do” to rebuild support and make the voters “understand our position”, BBC reports.

Earlier, Labour party leader Kier Starmer and national campaign co-ordinator Pat McFadden had expressed similar concerns.

“I have heard you. I have listened. And I am determined to meet your concerns and to gain your respect and trust again in the future,” said Starmer.

The party’s delay in calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza conflict has cost it dear. Labour lost out to independents, the anti-war Worker’s Party of Britain and Greens in areas with large Muslim populations.

Labour called for an immediate ceasefire in February, after months of infighting and saw many resignations over the issue.

The party lost control of the Oldham council in a shock defeat, after ruling it for 13 years. The council has pockets with a huge Muslim population.

In the West Midlands mayoral race, where Labour’s Richard Parker beat incumbent Andy Street, Akhmed Yakoob, an independent backed by George Galloway, polled nearly 70,000 votes.

As per a BBC analysis, in 58 local council wards, where more than one-in-five residents identify as Muslim, Labour’s share of the vote was down 21 per cent than in 2021, the last time most seats were contested.

It was a downside to an otherwise positive performance for Labour, which saw it gain more than 170 councillors to take control of eight councils.

Interestingly, London bucked this trend as mayor Sadiq Khan had called for a ceasefire much before the party leadership did.

Labour’s vote is up by three points on average in parts of London where more than 15 per cent identify as Muslim, compared with 4.5 per cent where the proportion is less than this.

The Greens, who called for an “immediate ceasefire” just over a week after the war began, have increased their share of the vote from 2021.

Muslim Vote demand

Meanwhile, a Muslim pressure group has issued Starmer with a list of 18 demands, including ending military ties with Israel, to win back voters, The Telegraph reports.

The Muslim Vote, a campaign to get Muslim voters to back pro-Palestine candidates, said the Labour leader must deliver on its requests if he is “serious” about his pledge.

The pressure group has also called for recognising Palestine as a state, pledging a travel ban on Israeli politicians involved in the war and apologising for Labour’s initial delay in calling for an immediate ceasefire.

The group warned Starmer that if he fails to do so, its supporters will vote for the Green Party or Lib Dems.

Ali Milani, the chair of the Labour Muslim Network, has warned Labour could face serious electoral consequences because of its stance on Gaza.