Tuesday 17 October 2023

Keir Starmer's Muslim Support Crisis

Last night it was an urgent crisis meeting between David Lammy, the newly minted chief of staff Sue Gray, and panicky Labour council leaders up and down the country. This evening it was a gathering of the entire front bench. It's fair to say Keir Starmer's gut-wrenching prostration before Israeli war aims threatens to decouple the support Labour customarily enjoys among Britain's Muslims from the party. And with up to a thousand dead from the Israeli strike on the Al-Ahli Arabi Baptist hospital, the pressure is not going to dissipate.

Except for a brief time under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour has long taken its Muslim support for granted - up to and including being openly contemptuous of them. The complaints from the Labour Muslim Network about Islamophobia in the party's ranks go unheeded. High profile member Trevor Phillips was reinstated by the party without sanction after saying Muslims were "a nation within a nation". The findings of the report by Martin Forde KC found a hierarchy of racism in the party were brushed under the carpet. Last night a "Labour source" said the resignation of Muslim councillors and members was merely a case of the party shaking off fleas. And I'm reminded of the disrespect Labour showed local Muslims during the Batley and Spen by-election a couple of years ago. With George Galloway swooping in, another anonymous Labour source suggested the party was losing Muslim support because it had taken a tough stance on antisemitism. An incendiary, Islamophobic claim that resulted in zero action, despite promises of an investigation.

Starmer's tacit support for war crimes under the shadow cabinet's "Israel has the right to defend itself" stock answer is triply insulting for Muslim supporters. After commenting effusively and condemning Hamas for the killing of 1,400 Israelis, not once has Starmer made sympathetic remarks about Palestinians on the receiving end of the collective punishment he gave a blank cheque to. This reinforces the entirely reasonable conclusion that Labour thinks some lives matter more than others. Second, despite Starmer's Corbyn-lite leadership platform and pledge to "put human rights at the heart of foreign policy", by his words he's proven no different to his right wing predecessors in matters of war and peace. In other words, he;s demonstrated that his "changed" party is intensely relaxed about the bombing and murder of Muslims. And third, remembering that many hundreds of thousands of British Muslims have family and friendship links to Gazans, his appalling statements have shown complete indifference to their concerns about their loved ones.

This arrogance, it appears, has finally registered as a warning light on Labour's election dashboard. This letter was apparently signed by thousands of British Muslims, which includes a sizeable contingent of Labour councillors. They threaten to withdraw support from the party if the line on Israel's massacre does not substantially shift. This is very serious because if most of England and Wales's 3.8 million Muslims sit on their hands at the next election, the chances of taking back the so-called Red Wall seats goes from dead cert to in the balance. The possibility of mass transfers to a smaller party, such as Aspire in Bethnal Green and Bow, a viable George Galloway challenge somewhere, or protest votes for the Greens - which could tip the difference in Bristol West - could accelerate the forecasted decomposition of Labour's base, but this side of the election.

Any back-pedalling is far too late for many people. Undoubtedly what Starmer comes up with will be some mealy mouthed rubbish that calls for restraint, respecting international law, and perhaps timidly and humbly suggest that Netanyahu's government might consider a pause in the bombing. There won't be any condemnation, except of Hamas. And there won't be any recognition of the pain Starmer has caused British Muslims. No apology is forthcoming. And just like that, an important constituent of Labour's electoral coalition could evaporate because conformity to the rotten interests of the foreign policy establishment mattered more.

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Andy said...

We've been here before haven't we?

The Gulf War lost Labour Leicester City Council to a coalition of a Lib Dem dog wagged by a Tory minority tail. With the recent dropping of most of the sitting councillors there I can see history repeating itself.

I can't see much changing in Nottingham, local Tories are in disarray, Lib Dems have no presence since the coalition government and the Greens resemble a kind of ad hoc village fete committee.

The big question is whether this will affect the new mayoral election next year

Zoltan Jorovic said...

We need more ad hoc village fair committees if the alternative is the sort of crap the mainstream are offering.

We are the Village Green Preservation Society
God save Donald Duck, Vaudeville and Variety
We are the Desperate Dan Appreciation Society
God save strawberry jam and all the different varieties

I think we can all agree with that!

Anonymous said...

If you live in working class towns (things a bit different in the cities) in the north and midlands you will know that labour and conservatives are close rivals except in the wards where they have a high muslim population. to piss them off does risk a total labour collapse. maybe not at the moemnt but when torys revive again under a new leader this could come back to haunt labour at local levil