Keir Starmer has been urged to take “urgent action” after a senior Labour official claimed antisemitism amongst Muslims was responsible for the party’s bad polling.
The anonymous party strategist was quoted by the Mail on Sunday newspaper claiming that Labour was “haemorrhaging” Muslims voters because of “what Keir has been doing on antisemitism”.
The claim, suggesting Muslims were opposed to fighting anti-Jewish racism and were abandoning Labour because of this, comes ahead of a by-election in Batley and Spen, where the opposition appears on course to lose yet another seat.
Activists in the constituency say Labour’s equivocal position on Palestine has been repeatedly brought up on the doorstep by voters, as well as Keir Starmer’s decision not to attend an Iftar supper because of a participant’s views on the Middle East conflict.
The Labour Muslim Network, which represents Muslim members in the party, on Sunday wrote to the party leader and urged him to “urgently and publicly” challenge such views.
Labour declined to comment on the record about the claims in the original briefing, but The Independent understands the comments were unauthorised and do not represent the party’s official view.
“This is a patently vile, Islamophobic briefing by a ‘senior Labour official’ to the Daily Mail,” Labour Muslim Network said in a statement posted on social media.
“This racism needs to be challenged urgently and publicly by the Labour leadership and the party as a whole. There can be no hiding behind the anonymity of the source and briefing.”
Stating that they had written to Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner, they added: “LMN and Muslim members expect thorough and immediate action. Islamophobia from ‘senior Labour strategists’ cannot be tolerated.”
Miqdaad Versi, a spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “Those who have tried to understand, have identified many local issues as well as Labour positions on Palestine, Kashmir and Islamophobia – and being seen to take Muslim voters for granted. If advisors to the Labour leader, don’t get this, they shouldn’t be talking about it.”
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Describing the comments as “astonishing”, he said: “Any senior Labour official who tells media that Muslims are not voting Labour because Muslims support antisemitism, should be sacked. No ifs, no buts.”
A poll by Survation released over the weekend shows Labour is set to lose Batley and Spen by 47 per cent of the vote to 41 per cent for the Conservatives. Former Respect MP George Galloway, who is also standing, is apparently on course to retain his deposit winning six per cent of the vote.