Labour has much work to do to retain support among Muslim voters, a senior party figure has said as a poll suggested the party had lost half of its Muslim voter base over its handling of the Israel-Gaza war.
Only 43% of British Muslims who backed Labour at the 2019 general election are willing to do so again at the next general election expected this year, the survey finds.
Survation, which conducted the poll for the Labour Muslim Network, spoke to 682 Muslims across Great Britain and found that the Green party has attracted 7% of disgruntled former Labour voters since 2021, with a further 3% switching support to the Liberal Democrats. More than 20% of Muslim voters remain undecided, giving Labour some hope.
It is not only the party’s support among one of its loyal voter bases that has plummeted, Keir Starmer’s net favourability has dropped – albeit not as sharply – by 4 percentage points since 2021 and now sits at -11%.
Starmer’s net favourability was worse in north-west England, at -18%, a region that features constituencies with a large Muslim voter base including Blackburn, Manchester (Gorton, Withington and Central) and Preston.
Senior Labour MPs remain united behind Starmer’s efforts on the war, but have some concerns over being outdone by David Cameron, who was first to call for a sustainable ceasefire and last week said that the British government was considering recognising a Palestinian state.
A Labour frontbencher told the Guardian: “Many voters I’ve spoken to in the area are furious with Starmer’s muddling position over his recognition of Palestine’s statehood. It hasn’t gone down well. Fortunately for Labour the anger isn’t quite at the peak of what it was in November, but ultimately people are still sore, so Labour has its work cut out for them.”
As a result, British Muslims’ identification with Labour as their natural choice has fallen by 49 percentage points, from 72% in 2021 to 29% this year. On top of this, 85% of British Muslims believe the political position of parties on the Israel-Gaza war will be important in influencing their vote at the polls this year.
The 2024 Survation survey was conducted via telephone, using a combination of landline and mobile phone; the same methodology was used for its 2021 poll for LMN in 2021, a year after Starmer took control of the party.
In better news for Labour, 62% of British Muslims polled said their view of the Conservative party had become more unfavourable over the last year, with 38% believing Labour had become more distasteful within the same period.
A year into his leadership, Starmer was warned not to take the Muslim vote for granted amid concerns about Islamophobia in Labour and the party’s stance on Palestine.
Polling after a report into Islamophobia within the party was released in 2021 found that 55% of British Muslims did not “trust the leadership of the Labour party to tackle Islamophobia effectively” and 48% did not have confidence in the party’s complaints procedure to deal with Islamophobia.
Anxieties within the community have also been raised over Apsana Begum’s status within the party, as the position of the MP for Poplar and Limehouse remains in limbo after a trigger ballot was launched in 2022 when she was signed off sick after a campaign of what she described as “misogynistic abuse and harassment”.