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21 Jun, 2021 11:32

Labour Muslims infuriated by insinuation that Keir Starmer’s opposition to anti-Semitism caused ‘haemorrhaging’ of their votes

Labour Muslims infuriated by insinuation that Keir Starmer’s opposition to anti-Semitism caused ‘haemorrhaging’ of their votes

An anonymous Labour official has stirred Muslim anger by implying that the community is inherently anti-Semitic. Loss of Muslim votes may cost the party its long-held seat in the Batley and Spen by-election.

On Sunday, the Labour Muslim Network (LMN) sent a letter to party leadership, decrying a comment made by an unidentified Labour official to the Daily Mail. The source said the party was “haemorrhaging votes among Muslim voters, and the reason for that is what Keir has been doing on antisemitism.” Keir Starmer, the official said, “challenged Corbyn on it, and there's been a backlash among certain sections of the community.”

LMN called the remark “patently vile, Islamophobic” adding that “this racism needs to be challenged urgently and publicly by the Labour leadership & the party as a whole.” The sentiment was shared by several Labour politicians, including Kim Johnson, Zarah Sultana and Anneliese Dodds.

Deputy Leader Angela Rayner responded by calling the comments “completely unacceptable” and saying they were “not condoned or sanctioned in any way by the Party”. The identity of the “senior official” however was not immediately revealed.

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The remarks were part of a story about Labour’s struggle to hold on to its West-Yorkshire stronghold of Batley and Spen and how the late intervention of former Glasgow MP–and host of his own show at RT– George Galloway in the by-election campaign may give a win to the Tories. If Labour candidate Kim Leadbeater loses, the constituency is likely to have a Conservative representing it for the first time since 1997.

Leadbeater, the sister of slain MP Jo Cox, is on the receiving end of growing discontent among Muslim Labour voters, with what they see as Starmer taking them for granted.

“Keir took the time to condemn two idiots for being antisemitic last month but he won’t condemn the Israeli government for killing innocent people,” a 33-year-old Muslim man in Batley and Spen told the Guardian. “I’ve voted Labour my whole life but I won’t be blindly giving them my vote any more.”

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Starmer assumed his leadership position on the back of a campaign against his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, who was accused of condoning anti-Semitism. Ousted from power, Corbyn was later effectively suspended from party ranks in October last year for failing to accept a report on the same issue. Corbynistas believe anti-Semitism issues were blown out of proportion to stage a party coup.

Galloway, who like Corbyn has been championing various Muslim causes for decades, is cherishing an opportunity of leeching Muslim voters from Starmer’s Labour. He is also exploiting the dwindling support for another group of traditional Labour supporters – the white working class. They “despise” the party, which has been pushing things like “LGBTQI agenda” and “identity politics” that are irrelevant to those people, he explained to the Daily Mail.

Galloway runs from the Workers Party of Britain and is polling at 6% in the West Yorkshire constituency, behind 47% for Tories and 41% for Labour. He hopes that on the ballot day on July 1, Labour will finish third.

The backlash to the “Islamophobic” remarks is the latest example of a growing rift between Labour and Muslim voters. Last week, five local Muslim organizations in Batley and Spen warned in an open letter that the party “has not been proud of our support.” In particular, the letter said the party has to “resolve the issue of Islamophobia” within its ranks and take a firm stance in support of Palestinian rights, which would “go beyond the usual political rhetoric.”

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