New polling has found that Keir Starmer is rated far less favourably than his party by British Muslims, suggesting that he may be a drag on Labour’s ticket among these voters and setting alarm bells ringing ahead of a key by-election.
Research was commissioned by the Labour Muslim Network after its activists campaigning in the May 2021 elections reported back to the organisation that Labour’s vote was collapsing in traditional Labour Muslim areas of the country.
The new Survation poll shows that while the Labour Party as a whole has a strong net favourability rating among British Muslims of +42%, Starmer – elected as leader in April last year – has a net favourability of -7% among these voters.
It also reveals that Starmer’s net favourability among those in the general population who voted for Labour in 2019 is +34%, but this falls to -4% when looking at British Muslims who voted for Labour in the last general election.
While Labour remains by far the most popular party amongst voting age British Muslims, Starmer has a positive favourability rating of 22%, which is almost equal to that of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, with 20%.
Asked which party they most identify with, 72% of respondents said Labour, 9% said Conservatives and a further 9% none. Asked which party they voted for in May, 53% replied Labour, 11% Tory and 34% reported that they did not vote.
Of those who did not vote in May, 24% said this was either because they “would normally vote Labour, but no longer feel the party represents them” or they “did not like the local candidates of the party they would normally vote for”.
A net total of 37% of British Muslims told Survation that their view of the Labour Party had become more unfavourable over the last 12 months. 25% of the same group of voters said it had become more favourable.
According to the new Survation poll, the percentage of British Muslims who voted Labour in 2019 was 83%, but the percentage who now identify with the Labour Party is 72%. The finding comes ahead of the Batley and Spen by-election on July 1st.
The seat formerly held by murdered MP Jo Cox is being contested by her sister, Kim Leadbeater, for Labour. The campaigner and personal trainer has said the party needs more “real people” in parliament and has vowed to “burst the Westminster bubble” if she wins.
George Galloway is standing in the constituency with the explicit aim of making a Labour loss more likely and of damaging Starmer. He has predicted that it would be “curtains” for the leader if his party is defeated.
The towns of Batley and Heckmondwike in the West Yorkshire seat have sizeable South Asian communities. Labour is defending a majority of 3,525, which is slightly smaller than the one Labour had in Hartlepool before its by-election defeat in May.
Commenting on the polling, the Labour Muslim Network said: “For decades the Muslim community have been amongst the most loyal Labour supporters seen anywhere in the UK. The findings of this opinion poll show the beginning of a fracturing of this relationship.
“This should be of deep concern for us all in the Labour Party. Muslim voters are sending us a clear message – our votes and support should not be taken for granted and must be earned.
“Winning back the trust of those whom we have lost and strengthening our bond with our existing supporters must begin urgently. This can only be done through a serious commitment by the leaders throughout our party and movement.
“Everyone at the Labour Muslim Network is desperate to see Labour win again – but to do so we must understand the serious concerns amongst some of our most loyal voters.”
A Labour spokesperson said: “The Labour Party is committed to a strong relationship with the Muslim community, and in our pursuit of building a better, fairer, more secure future for all, we will continue to robustly stand up for the rights of Muslims everywhere.”
Momentum’s Mish Rahman, who sits on Labour’s ruling national executive committee, said the polling “reflects a disastrous failure of Starmer’s leadership to represent millions of Muslim voters, who are a key bedrock of Labour’s support”.
He added: “I was canvassing in Batley and Spen this weekend, and over and over again voters wanted to talk to me about Palestine. They were justifiably angry at the Labour leadership’s failure to take a clear moral and practical stance in support of the Palestinian people.”
Rahman urged the leadership to adopt a “bold vision”, including “a progressive foreign policy and a transformative economic offer”, while warning that Labour will not be on track to win the next election if Batley is lost.
The LMN conducted the largest ever consultation of Muslim members and supporters of Labour last year. It found that more than one in four had directly experienced Islamophobia in the party, while over one in three had directly witnessed it.
44% of those consulted said they did not believe the party took the issue of Islamophobia seriously, and 48% said they did not have confidence in Labour to deal with Islamophobia effectively via its complaints process.
Starmer, along with deputy leader Angela Rayner and general secretary David Evans, met with LMN after the Islamophobia report was released and promised to implement the recommendations in full.