Labour can’t afford to ignore Palestine and they certainly can’t afford to sideline British Muslims. When there ceases to be a recognisable difference between Labour and the Conservative Party then you can no longer expect to rely on the ‘Muslim vote’. As a life long Labour voter and born into a Muslim family myself, I find myself unable to stomach voting for either party and feeling politically homeless. Both are now ultra nationalistic and, in my eyes, extremely Islamophobic. If there was a general election tomorrow, I’m not even sure I would bother to vote, as this rather depends on what the alternatives might be in my constituency, but I ‘am’ sure that I wont be voting Labour or Tory.
Batley and Spen will be an interesting result for sure as this is poised to be a litmus test for Starmer’s Labour Party. It’s an interesting constituency as despite the fact that Labour have held the seat since 1997, the Tories have been regaining ground ever since, despite the fact that it has a significant Muslim population.
2019 Labour Votes: 22,594 (42.7%) – Turnout 52,927 (66.5%)
2017 Labour Votes: 29,844 (55.5%) – Turnout 53,780 (67.1%)
2015 Labour Votes: 21,826 (43.2%) – Turnout 50,479 (64.4%)
2010 Labour Votes: 21,565 (41.5%) – Turnout 51,939 (67.7%)
2005 Labour Votes: 17,974 (45.8%) – Turnout 39,208 (62.3%)
2001 Labour Votes: 19,224 (49.9%) – Turnout 38,542 (60.5%)
1997 Labour Votes: 23,213 (49.4%) – Turnout 46,965 (73.2%)
2019 Tory Votes: 19,069 (36%) – Turnout 52,927 (66.5%)
2017 Tory Votes: 20,883 (38.8%) – Turnout 53,780 (67.1%)
2015 Tory Votes: 15,769 (31.2%) – Turnout 50,479 (64.4%)
2010 Tory Votes: 17,159 (33%) – Turnout 51,939 (67.7%)
2005 Tory Votes: 12,186 (31.1%) – Turnout 39,208 (62.3%)
2001 Tory Votes: 14,160 (36.7%) – Turnout 38,542 (60.5%)
1997 Tory Votes: 17,072 (36.4%) – Turnout 46,965 (73.2%)
If we take 2017 out of the equation as this seems to have been an exceptional year for a number of reasons, not least of all because the then Labour MP and candidate for Batley and Spen, Jo Cox, was brutally murdered by a neo-Nazi months before the election, we can see that there are some consistencies. The Labour vote share since 2010 has remained fairly steady at around the 22k mark (rough average of 42.47%). The Tory vote share, on the other hand, suggests a slight gain over the same period. Excluding the 2017 result, the average vote share for the Tories over the last decade has been 17.3k (rough average of 33.4%). However, the 2019 election, which is the most recent, narrowed the gap significantly. The Labour majority in 2019 was just 3,525 votes (or 6.7%).
It’s also worth noting that the overall turnout has ranged between 60.5% and 73.2% and, looking at the figures above, there’s a suggestion that an increased turnout typically benefits the Labour Party.
The demographic of Batley & Spen, according to Kirklees Council, is 76% white, 10% Indian and 10% Pakistani, in a population of 110,971, which suggests that, even if we accept that not all will be of voting age, there is still, potentially, a significant number of Muslim voters in the constituency who could upset the apple cart and given that George Galloway is standing as an independent and on a pro-Palestinian ticket, it would seem Starmer has real cause for concern. Of course, it’s unlikely that Galloway could secure enough votes to win the by-election but it’s certainly possible that he could do enough damage to wipe out the Labour majority and hand victory to the Tories, especially if there’s a low turnout as well.
From a personal perspective, however much it would hurt to see yet another constituency go blue, it would be a sacrifice worth making if it served as another nail in the Labour ‘centrist’ coffin. It may not be easy to regain the trust of British Muslims after the damage and insult that’s been done by Labour centrists over the last few years but I would hope that once Labour returns to it’s Socialist roots and we have a genuine anti-racist, socialist, leadership back at the helm then Labour would find it easier to win back constituencies, like Batley and Spen, at the next general election.
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