Batley result raises concern for Labour's future Muslim vote
The narrow lead secured by the UK's Labour party in the northern English constituency of Batley and Spen should spur the party to do more secure the Muslim vote ahead of future by-elections in constituencies with large Muslim populations, according to party activists.
"Batley and Spend should be won by Labour easily," Ali Milani, a member of the Labour Muslim Network, told The Guardian.
"There are seats like London, Bradford and Sheffield with significant Muslim populations which are going to make Batley and Spen look like a picnic if we lose any more ground on this. This is the moment, the alarm bells have gone off, we need to act now".
Kim Leadbeater, the sister of slain MP Jo Cox, won the Batley and Spen seat for Labour by just 323 votes, in a result that came amid growing dissatisfaction among British Muslims with Labour under Kier Starmer’s leadership.
Concerns abound that the situation may worsen if byelections are triggered in the Liecester East and London’s Poplar and Limehouse constituencies, where MPs may are facing legal charges. Both constituencies have significant Muslim populations
George Galloway, who came second to Leadbater and ran his campaign on a platform focusing on issues such as Palestine, has indicated that he would stand in Leicester East. Despite concerns among the party over the threat posed by the former Respect Party MP, some have dismissed his potential to affect future results.
Alienated by Labour
Muslims are still feeling disillusioned by the current labour leader's stance on foreign policy, as Mustafa Al-Dabbagh, a spokesperson for the Muslim Association of Britain, has noted.
“We’re speaking to British Muslims on a daily basis and they feel alienated. Muslims feel like they are not being taken seriously by the leadership of the Labour party.”, Al-Dabbagh told The Guardian. "You have a government that ignores foreign policy issues like Palestine and Kashmir, and you have an opposition that equivocates.”
At the same time, a memo linked to a Labour source which suggested the party "lost the conservative Muslim vote" in Batley and Spen "over gay rights and Palestine" pointed to Labour briefings and commentary being "deeply rooted in Islamophobia", according to Milani.
While the UK's Conservative party has been dogged by claims of institutional Islamophobia, polls conducted on Muslims within the opposition party paint a worrying picture of anti-Muslim sentiment within Labour ranks.
In November, a report by the Labour Muslim Network found that 29 percent of Muslim Labour members had suffered Islamophobia within the party, while 37 percent had witnessed instances of it in the party. 44 percent of Muslim party members regarded as not taking the issue seriously enough, with over have expressing a lack of trust in the leadership.