Keir Starmer has been encouraged to take “urgent action” after a senior Labour official suggested Muslim antisemitism was responsible for the party’s poor polling.
An anonymous party strategist was quoted by the Mail on Sunday claiming that Labour was “haemorrhaging” Muslim voters because of “what Keir has been doing on antisemitism”.
The incendiary claim – which implies that Muslims are opposed to fighting anti-Jewish racism – comes weeks before a hotly-contested by-election in Batley and Spen, where Labour appears to be on the back foot.
Activists in the Yorkshire constituency have said that Starmer’s uncertain position on Palestine has been brought up repeatedly on the doorstep by voters – along with the Labour leader’s decision not to attend an Iftar celebration because of a participant’s views on the Middle East conflict.
The Labour Muslim Network – which represents Muslim members of the party – wrote to Starmer on Sunday and urged him to “urgently and publicly” challenge the views of the anonymous official.
“This is a patently vile, Islamophobic briefing by a ‘senior Labour official’ to the Daily Mail,” the group said in a statement.
“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.”
Adding that they had written to the party leadership, they said: “LMN and Muslim members expect thorough and immediate action. Islamophobia from ‘senior Labour strategists’ cannot be tolerated.”
As Deputy Leader I want to make clear publicly that these comments that are being attributed to a member of Labour Party staff in a newspaper today are not a Labour Party response or statement, are completely unacceptable & are not condoned or sanctioned in any way by the Party. https://t.co/NRJjHxZps2— Angela Rayner (@AngelaRayner) June 20, 2021
Miqdaad Versi, a spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain, told The Independent: “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.”
In comments posted on social media on Sunday afternoon, Angela Rayner – Starmer’s deputy – said: “As deputy leader I want to make clear publicly that these comments that are being attributed to a member of Labour party staff in a newspaper today are not a Labour Party response or statement, are completely unacceptable and are not condoned or sanctioned in any way by the party.
“I will be ensuring that the party investigates this reported comment in line with our party’s rules and processes. Anybody who has made these comments should and will be dealt with in line with our independent disciplinary procedures, which I have no role in as deputy leader.”
Polling published over the weekend shows Labour is set to lose Batley and Spen – which 47 per cent of the vote expected to go to the Tories.