Poll of British Muslims shows falling support for Labour over Gaza

Seven in 10 say Israel-Gaza war will be key to their vote at looming UK general election

British Muslims have historically been a solid voter base for the Labour Party. Getty Images
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Britain’s Labour Party has shed support among Muslim voters as the Israel-Gaza war shapes their political thinking in an election year, according to new polling.

Historically a solidly Labour voter base, just 43 per cent of Muslims now say they would support Keir Starmer’s party, a Survation poll found.

Almost a quarter are undecided, with 70 per cent saying the stance British politicians take on the Israel-Palestine conflict will be “very important” to their vote in 2024.

Leaving out the undecided voters, Labour has 60 per cent support compared with an estimated 86 per cent at the last general election in 2019.

Some have warmed to Labour, and just 6 per cent say they would support Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives. Still, the Labour Muslim Network, which commissioned the polling, said the results represented a “crisis point”.

It called on the Labour leadership to “change paths now or risk losing the support of the Muslim community for a generation”.

“Muslim voters have been watching and are now sending a clear message – they will not support any political party that does not fervently oppose the crimes committed against the people of Gaza,” it said.

“For decades the Muslim community has been among the most loyal Labour supporters anywhere in the United Kingdom. The findings of this new opinion poll show a startling collapse of this electoral and communal relationship.”

The poll also found:

· Keir Starmer is viewed unfavourably by 40 per cent of Muslim voters, with 29 per cent viewing him favourably

· Rishi Sunak’s ratings are far worse, with 69 per cent viewing him unfavourably and just 11 per cent viewing him favourably

· While 38 per cent of Muslims say their view of Labour has become less favourable in the past year, 34 per cent say they view the party more favourably

· The trend is more clearly negative for the Conservatives, with 62 per cent viewing them less favourably and 11 per cent viewing them more favourably

The findings add weight to anecdotal evidence of Muslim voters souring on Labour, as Mr Starmer struggles to maintain unity over the war.

Ali Milani, the chair of the Muslim network behind the poll, has criticised Mr Starmer for defending Israeli tactics and sharing a platform with Israel’s ambassador in Britain, who said she could not accept a Palestinian state.

Mr Milani was Labour's candidate in Boris Johnson's Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat in the 2019 election, and has warned that Labour could "throw decades of Muslim support away" if they fail to back a ceasefire in Gaza.

Mr Starmer has tried to perform a balancing act by calling for a two-state solution and condemning the death toll from Israel’s offensive, while evading calls to demand an immediate ceasefire.

He has made a priority of cleaning up Labour’s reputation among Jewish voters after allegations of anti-Semitism dogged the party under his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn.

Pro-Palestinian activists were angered last week by reports Mr Starmer had commissioned private polling of Muslim voters, accusing him of being led by political tactics rather than principles.

A previous Survation poll suggested 86 per cent of Muslim voters backed Labour at the last general election in 2019, even as it fell to a landslide defeat nationally.

Of those who expressed a view in the latest Survation poll, 60 per cent said they would support Labour – suggesting a 26-point decline – with 8 per cent siding with the Conservatives.

However, 23 per cent said they were undecided, with only 43 per cent of all those surveyed saying they would support Labour. Survation said it spoke to 682 people between January 18 and February 3.

The decline bucks the trend of national polls, which show Labour in a far stronger position than in 2019, putting it on course to win power when Mr Sunak calls a general election, which he must do by December.

One group called The Muslim Vote is aiming to mobilise pro-Palestinian voters in constituencies where they carry particular weight. There are 22 out of 650 seats in which Muslims make up more than a quarter of the electorate, it says.

Updated: February 05, 2024, 1:56 PM