Pro-Gaza candidates squeeze votes from Labour in Muslim areas


The Labour Party has lost several former strongholds to independent candidates campaigning on pro-Gaza platforms.

In one of the biggest shocks of the evening, shadow minister Jonathan Ashworth lost his seat in Leicester South, which had a majority of more than 22,000.

The party scores an average of 11 points less in seats where more than 10% of the population identifies as Muslim.

In Ilford North, Shadow Health Minister Wes Straating was among those whose majority of members fell: from over 9,000 to 528.

But Labour managed to win back Rochdale from George Galloway.

All in all, it was a spectacular night for Labour, with the party winning an overwhelming victory.

However, in areas with a high percentage of Muslim voters, the party performed poorly.

Labour lost five seats with large Muslim populations: four to independents and one to the Conservatives.

In Leicester South, Shockat Adam declared “this is for Gaza” and won the seat by 979 votes.

The constituency, where about 30% of voters are Muslim, has been governed by Mr Ashworth for 13 years.

In nearby Leicester East, the Conservatives benefited from independent candidates who won thousands of votes, most notably the region’s former Labour MP Claudia Webbe.

Ms Webbe, who was expelled from the party after being charged and later convicted of intimidation, is an outspoken pro-Palestinian campaigner.

The Tories won her former seat by 4,426 votes, fewer than the number of votes won by Ms Webbe.

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(BBC channel)

In Birmingham Perry Barr, Labour’s Khalid Mahmood lost by 507 votes to independent Ayoub Khan.

Meanwhile, independent candidates who campaigned on the Gaza conflict won in Dewsbury and Batley, as well as Blackburn, both of which had previously had large Labour majorities.

Other senior Labour politicians in areas with large Muslim populations narrowly managed to retain their seats after their majorities disappeared.

Zarah Sultana, the newly elected Labour MP for Coventry South, said her party’s position on Gaza was a “stain on its reputation” and that while the party had “moved in the right direction”, it had “taken a long time to get there”.

David Lammy, a potential Labour foreign secretary, told the BBC his party will “work with partners to get Palestinian recognition” in power.

In Ilford North, independent candidate Leanne Mohamad, the granddaughter of Palestinian refugees, was just 528 votes behind Streeting.

In Birmingham Ladywood, Shadow Justice Minister Shabana Mahmood held off a challenge from independent candidate and lawyer Akhmed Yakoob, who has a large TikTok following.

However, her majority fell from just over 32,000 to 3,421.

In the same way as Jess Phillips, who left the Labour frontbench last year to vote in parliament for a ceasefire in Gazaalso saw its majority drop from 13,141 to just 693.

Jody McIntyre, who stood as candidate for Mr Galloway’s British Workers Party, came second.

Ms Phillips was met with shouts and boos as she delivered her speech after the results. She described the campaign as “the worst election I have ever been involved in” and claimed her activists had faced intimidation.

In Bethnal Green and Stepney, east London, Shadow Minister for Small Business Rushnara Ali, with a majority of over 31,000, defeated independent candidate Ajmal Masroor by just 1,689 votes.

By his own count, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer faced criticism over “Free Palestine” and had his majority slashed, while independent, pro-Gaza party Andrew Feinstein came in second with 7,312 votes.

In Islington North, his predecessor as Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, retained his seat as an independent, after being suspended from the party over his response to a report on antisemitism in Labour.

Corbyn defeated the Labour candidate by more than 7,000 votes.

In Rochdale, however, it was Labour’s Paul Waugh who expelled Workers Party leader Mr Galloway from the party, just months after he won the seat in a by-election dominated by the Gaza conflict.

The Labour Party has come under increasing pressure over its stance on the conflict since Israel launched a military campaign in response to Hamas’s unprecedented attack on October 7.

In February Labour called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza but critics said the party was moving too slowly to reach that position.

In its manifesto, Labour has committed itself to recognising a Palestinian state.

Last year, Sir Keir was criticised after saying Israel had the “right” to cut off Gaza’s water and energy supplies.

He later clarified that he only meant that the country has the right to self-defense.

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