Labour vote share down a third in some majority Muslim areas, analysis reveals

Despite Labour still riding high in the opinion polls, the issue of Gaza could prove a thorny issue for the party, as ITV News Political Correspondent Shehab Khan reports

Words by ITV News Westminster Producer Maya Bowles

Labour lost 33 percentage points of vote share in areas that are majority Muslim in the recent local elections, according to exclusive analysis for ITV News by Number Cruncher Politics. 

People across England and Wales went to the polls on May 2 to vote for local councillors, mayors, and police and crime commissioners.

While Labour saw huge gains across the country, causing upset for the Tories as they took control of councils like Hartlepool and Rushmoor, there was a significant drop in support for the party among Muslim voters.

For months it's been clear that the British Muslim community - traditionally Labour supporters - feel unheard and let down by the party over their stance on Gaza.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has been criticised by Muslim voters and MPs in his own party for not calling for a ceasefire in Gaza sooner.

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After the Hamas attacks on October 7 2023, and the subsequent Israeli military campaign, more than 35,000 people have so far been killed in Gaza.

Events abroad appear to have had a significant impact on how British Muslims voted in local contests, with independent candidates standing against Labour, often on Gaza tickets.

Analysis for ITV News by Number Cruncher Politics looked at the council wards with the highest Muslim populations who voted in the local elections.

The findings showed that in wards with over 70% Muslim representation, Labour lost 39 percentage points of vote share.

Pollster and analyst Matt Singh, who conducted the analysis of local election data for ITV News, said Labour's loss of Muslim support "matters in and of itself, and is something, given Labour's history with the British Muslim community, that Labour will take quite seriously".

He did, however, highlight that as it stands this is unlikely to have a huge impact at the general election, saying: "In terms of its broader electoral impact, it's important to note that the areas where British Muslims are found tend to be the areas that are most strongly Labour."

Not every local council had elections this year, but the contests represented the last big test of public opinion before a general election, with a clear message sent to Labour over the conflict in Gaza.

ITV News went to the West Midlands and Ilford, in London, to speak to local people about how much of an impact Gaza is having on how they vote.

West Midlands

While Labour secured a key victory in the West Midlands Mayoral contest, it was particularly tight, with Labour's Richard Parker beating Conservative Andy Street by only 1,500 votes.

The narrow victory was in part due to independent candidate Akhmed Yakoob, who stood partly on a Gaza ticket and came third, with almost 70,000 votes.

Mr Yakoob, a lawyer known for his TikTok videos and bright yellow Lamborghini, has also been involved in a number of controversies.

Most recently he shared a video which falsely accused a Labour activist of using a racist slur on the doorstep.

Nasir Rafiq, a community leader in Smethwick, said Mr Yakoob was elected because of his stance on Gaza.

"He was able to attract 70,000 votes with no track record in politics whatsoever. It goes to show how much people felt strongly about the Gaza issue", he said.

"I don't think it was about the candidate himself, it's just that people wanted to punish mainstream parties."

Nasir Akhtar, Imam at the Abrahamic Foundation, said: "The greatest impact that we have on our local life actually is the situation in Palestine and Gaza... When something happens in the Middle East, Muslims tend to be on the receiving end over here."

A local Imam told ITV News 'it's painful how people are treated in this country as a result of what happens' in the Middle East.

Shabnam Mughal, who attends the mosque, said: "Gaza is everywhere to be seen in everybody's heart... It's a very hard thing to watch, and we do need more influence from the politicians."

In an interview with ITV News, Mr Yakoob said: "I'm not a politician, and I am relatable to the common man... The working class man or woman or people who have been neglected by other politicians."

'I could walk down any street in Birmingham and relate to anyone', Mr Yakoob told ITV News

When asked about why he shared a false video which led to a Labour activist receiving death threats, the lawyer said "if the video has been doctored, then the poor teacher is not the only victim. I am the victim as well".

He refused to answer when asked why he didn't verify the video before sharing it, citing his experience of Islamophobia as the reason he believed the video.

Mr Yakoob said: "When I see something like that captioned as it was, I'm going to automatically think yes because most of the public at that time thought that's what she said."

Our analysis showed that support for Mr Yakoob was highest in areas where votes for Labour fell most sharply.

In Birmingham, the local authority in the West Midlands with the highest proportion of Muslims, support for Mr Yakoob was at 20%, with an 11 point drop in the Labour vote.

Mr Yakoob is now standing to be an MP in the Labour seat of Birmingham Ladywood at the general election, against Labour's Shadow Justice Secretary Shabana Mahmood.


As we head towards a general election this year, there are some constituencies where this could all have an impact - like Ilford North.

It's the seat of shadow health secretary Wes Streeting - which he last won in 2019 with a 5,218 majority - but there's an Independent candidate standing against him on a Gaza ticket, who could cause upset for Labour.

Leanne Mohamad is a British-Palestinian activist who says the two main parties "haven't served" people, and that "it's time to return politics back to the people".

She believes Gaza is a big issue for people in Ilford North, saying: "Many people of conscience around the world, and especially here in my community, disagree with Labour's stance on Gaza.

"That's why we are seeing the results we are across the country, and it's why they're trying hard to back track now."

The former youth worker said she's not worried about splitting the Labour vote: "I'm not here to split the vote, I don't want either party to take it. I'm standing to win and that is why I'm in this fight."

Ilford North Independent candidate Leanne Mohamad has accused Labour of backtracking on Gaza

Labour acknowledge this loss of support among British Muslims is an issue, with shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves telling LBC last week that relations with the Muslim community have become "frayed".

'Our party has got to make sure it listens,' said Labour's Rushanara Ali

Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, and shadow investment and small business minister, said: "We have to recognise that people feel deeply let down, and I understand that."

"We have always had a strong partnership with many sections of the British Muslim community, and as that's become more fragile, and where it still exists, and where it's broken down, absolutely we need to rebuild trust."

While this decline in support for Labour from British Muslims correlates with the outbreak of conflict in the Middle East, polling shows there are a number of other issues that are also important to British Muslims.

A recent poll by Savanta showed the most important issues to British Muslims were the cost of living, the NHS, and the economy, followed by Israel-Gaza.

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