Is a separatist, Islamic politics emerging in Britain? Today’s election may give us clues

George Galloway, a threat to Labour in heavily-Muslim constituencies (Photo by Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)


Britain’s Muslim population is around four million, equating to about six per cent of the populace. Will their votes have much of an impact on today’s general election? On a national level, the answer is clearly no. I am not going out on a limb when I say that Labour’s Keir Starmer will be prime minister by Friday evening regardless of how many Muslim voters stick with Labour. But there will be intriguing local battles which may foretell future trends. 

In recent general elections, over 70 per cent of British Muslims have voted Labour. That percentage will ironically go down this year, even as the vote for Starmer’s party goes up among the electorate as a whole. Campaigners such as Muslim Vote, backed by Islamic groups of various degrees of radicalism, argue that in just under 100 of the UK’s 650 constituencies Muslims make up 10 per cent or more of the electorate and could be decisive. 

But it is in a much smaller number of seats, 30 or so, where Muslims make up a quarter or more of the electorate, where they are much more likely to vote as a bloc. And nearly all these seats are very safe for Labour in even very bad years for the party. Where the Muslim vote is lower, the communities’ voting behaviour is much closer to the norm for the area.

What is unusual this year is that an organised challenge has emerged to Labour in these constituencies, coming either from rabble rouser George Galloway’s Workers Party or from various Mosque-backed independent candidates. The galvanising issue is supposed solidarity for the Palestinian cause.

Under Labour’s former hard Left leader Jeremy Corbyn, Labour had adopted an extremely hostile attitude towards Israel. One of the leitmotifs of his whole career has been antipathy to Israel and his self-proclaimed solidarity with Palestine.  His lieutenants Andrew Murray and Seumas Milne were even more vocal in the hard-line positions they took. 

During Corbyn’s leadership, Labour was embroiled in endless anti-Semitism rows. If one was being kind, one would say that Corbyn was often careless with his language and with whom he was willing to associate. Some of his explanations rather lacked credibility. Was Corbyn really only using “inclusive language” when he spoke of his “friends in Hamas” and “friends in Hezbollah”?

After Keir Starmer took over as Labour leader in 2020, detoxifying Labour of its anti-Semitic taint was a key task to making the party once more electable. In the weeks immediately after Hamas’s October 7 pogrom, Starmer strongly backed Israel’s right to defend itself against Palestinian terrorism.

This is where Labour’s current problems with the Muslim vote stem from. Whilst Corbyn, the by now ex-Labour MP, was found on the front row of endless “Palestinian Solidarity” marches, Starmer initially adopted a robustly pro-Israel line, over time adding caveats and nuances. Today his position is very much what you might expect of a moderate European centre-Left leader – but it is still enough to drive sections of the Muslim community mad.

Labour’s support in very heavily Muslim areas fell by up to 25 per cent in May’s local elections. Previously, in February, Galloway won a by-election to the House of Commons for the Rochdale constituency in Greater Manchester. The seat is about a quarter Muslim, and Galloway’s campaign was all about the iniquities of Israel rather than local issues. The breakthrough for his Workers Party would not have been possible without Labour having mucked up their own candidate selection, but it may have been a harbinger of things to come.

In East London, Bradford and now Rochdale, Galloway has a history of stealing heavily Muslim seats off Labour since his own departure from the party over the Iraq war. But he has until now proven much less adept at holding on to them. 

Whether now having his own party will make a difference, today’s election will show. The Workers Party combines its pro-Palestine solidarity stance with hard Left economics, Russophilia and anti-wokery. It speaks the language of a party appealing to the electorate as a whole. But make no mistake, its vote will be nearly wholly Muslim. It is standing in a total of 152 constituencies, in the vast majority of which its vote will be negligible.  

The Workers Party’s real impact will be seen in a very small number of heavily Muslim seats. The same is true of the independent candidates backed by various “community groups.” National polling, even at its largest and most sophisticated scale, is not very good at picking up such hyper-local trends. 

It is possible that a couple of such candidates could take their place in the Commons alongside Galloway and Corbyn –  the latter standing as an independent this time in his London constituency, more on a general Leftist platform rather than specifically appealing to the Islamic vote.

Today’s election may see the start of the emergence of a separatist Islamic politics in certain parts of England. The phenomenon has already been observed in local government and may now be seen in Westminster.