Labour’s battle in Batley, delays to the June unlocking and G7 summit failures

Sienna Rodgers
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Keir Starmer faces another tough by-election on July 1st – and today a new poll has piled on more pressure. The Labour Muslim Network sent out canvassing teams to campaign for Labour around the country in the difficult May elections, and those activists reported back that the party’s vote appeared to be collapsing in traditional Labour Muslim areas. They wanted to know more, so research from Survation was commissioned. We can now see the results of that poll, which make for difficult reading for the leadership. They suggest that Keir Starmer is himself a drag on Labour’s ticket among British Muslims, as he is rated far less favourably than his party. And Labour is still the most popular party among British Muslim voters, but 83% said they voted Labour in 2019 whereas 72% now identify with the party.

One of the first moves Starmer made publicly as Labour leader was declaring that “Kashmir is a bilateral issue for India and Pakistan to resolve peacefully”, taking a different stance to Labour conference. It is estimated that a fifth of Batley and Spen’s population is Muslim, and in recent weeks George Galloway has centred his campaign in the West Yorkshire seat around the accusation that Starmer has “betrayed the people of Palestine”. The Labour leader has since raised Palestine at PMQs, while Kim Leadbeater has acknowledged on her leaflets that “there are concerns” about Labour not being vocal enough. This by-election, which is very different from the Hartlepool contest, shows just show many fronts Labour is fighting on – and some of them are new electoral challenges presented by the decisions Starmer has himself made.

What Labour would rather be talking about is the confirmation expected later today that the June 21st unlocking will be delayed by up to four weeks. Although it makes sense at this point, there are Tory MPs who will not be happy. Labour is also keen to point out that getting to this point was not inevitable. “We need to make sure we have the borders properly closed,” Emily Thornberry told the BBC yesterday. She accused Boris Johnson of keeping the border with India “open until the last minute” because he wanted to get a “pre-deal deal”. Starmer told LBC this morning that Labour will decide how to vote on the step four lifting after he has spoken to the government’s scientific advisers to go through the numbers.

As for the G7 summit, Gordon Brown is very disappointed. The former Labour Prime Minister wrote in LabourList last week that it would make “life and death decisions” and urged the world’s richest countries to endorse a “burden sharing formula” that would ensure everyone is vaccinated. He has now concluded that “the 2021 G7 will go down in history as another turning point where history failed to turn”, as the leaders offered up around $7bn worth of vaccines rather than paying their share to deliver the 11 billion vaccines truly needed, or agreeing the temporary patent waiver. Lisa Nandy agrees: “By every measure, the Prime Minister’s summit has come up short. No clear plan to vaccinate the world by the end of 2022. No ambitious commitments to place the world on the path to climate safety. This should have been the summit that delivered health, environmental and economic security for people in Britain and across the world.” Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

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