Sadiq Khan re-elected London mayor but Labour haemorrhages Muslim support

Sadiq Khan secured a historic third consecutive term as Mayor of London but Labour’s success in the local election was overshadowed by a significant decline in support from Muslim voters.

It has prompted many to say that Labour needs to examine its performance with Muslim voters who are increasingly turning away from the party, more recently due to Sir Keir Starmer’s handling of Israel’s war on Gaza. 

Labour’s tensions with Muslim voters were exposed when a party source blamed “the Middle East” for the expected defeat of its mayoral candidate in the West Midlands, triggering a race row. Though Labour’s Richard Parker won in the end, it highlighted Muslim concerns over prejudices within the party.

Khan, the first Muslim mayor of a Western capital in 2016, defeated Conservative Susan Hall by a comfortable 11% margin despite rumours suggesting a close contest. 

The campaign was fraught with divisive politics and Islamophobia accusations. In his victory speech, Khan said his team responded to the “fear-mongering with facts, hate with hope and attempts to divide with efforts to unite.”

He also thanked his family: “Some of the stuff on social media, the protests at my home, the threats – it’s upsetting, it’s frightening and it’s wrong. I’m truly sorry for putting you through this.”

Conservatives faced criticism for choosing Susan Hall as their candidate because of her views and controversial comments in the past. Her campaign was mired in blunders and accusations of Islamophobia.

Labour suffers key losses in Muslim areas

While Labour made gains across England in the local elections, it suffered key losses in areas with large Muslim populations due to its stance on the Gaza war.

In 58 council wards analysed by the BBC, where over 20% of residents are Muslim, Labour’s vote share was down 21% compared to 2021.

Labour lost control of Oldham council on Friday, with pro-Palestine independents gaining five seats to leave the council in no overall control.

When asked if Israel’s Gaza offensive affected the results in Oldham, Labour leader Starmer acknowledged the wealth of feeling about the issue: “There are some places where it’s a very strong factor…I respect that.”

Ali Milani, chair of the Labour Muslim Network, said on X: “This is the last warning Labour will get before a general election.

“We have to rebuild trust with Muslim voters. We have to show we value Muslim life before we can win back votes. Call for an immediate arms embargo of Israel. Now.”

Racism row

Labour’s issues with Muslim voters were highlighted by a post-election race row sparked by comments from a party source about the West Midlands mayoral race.

Though Labour’s Richard Parker defeated Conservative Andy Street, early rumours suggested Parker might lose, prompting a Labour source to blame Hamas for the expected result. 

“It’s the Middle East, not West Midlands, that will have won [Conservative candidate] Andy Street the mayoralty,” the senior party source told the BBC. “Once again Hamas are the real villains.”

The quote drew fierce criticism from within and outside Labour, calling it “racist” and “disgusting.”

The Labour Muslim Network said: “Once again, we have seen a number of vile, racist briefings from supposed “senior Labour sources” regarding Muslim voters following an election result. 

“The inference that Muslim voters are not equal to others or are linked to Hamas is a disgusting racist smear on our communities. 

“We cannot begin to rebuild trust with Muslim voters as long as this Islamophobia runs rampant.”

According to BBC reporter Rob Mayor, a Labour Party spokesperson condemned the “racist quote”: “The Labour Party has strongly condemned this racist quote which has not come from anyone who is speaking on behalf of the party or whose values are welcome in the party.”


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