The Labour Party barely secured the West Yorkshire constituency of Batley and Spen after participating in a tense by-election on July 1. The contest ended with an electoral victory for the sister of the late Jo Cox, who was the former Member of Parliament for the same district. Despite the victory, the result was exceptionally close due to a massive drop in Muslim support in the traditionally Labour heartland. Because of the near defeat and clear indications that the Party is losing the Muslim vote, leader Sir Keir Starmer will not be able to celebrate with much enthusiasm. 
Mustafa al-Dabbagh, a spokesperson for the Muslim Association of Britain, shared the following reflections after the result:
“We’re speaking to British Muslims on a daily basis and they feel alienated. Muslims feel like they are not being taken seriously by the leadership on the Labour party. There seems to be an attitude that Muslims have always voted Labour, so they’re always going to.” 
Al-Dabbagh further explained why Labour must restore trust with the Muslim community:
“The Conservatives have left Labour with an open goal to come and engage with Muslim constituents and it’s not doing so. You have a government that ignores foreign policy issues like Palestine and Kashmir, and you have an opposition that equivocates…
“When you’ve got Labour party officials briefing frankly Islamophobic statements and making Muslims feel like they’re not part of the wider electorate then I’m sorry, what do you expect from us?” 
Jo Cox, who was murdered by extremists in 2016, was memorialised and remembered in remarks made after the election results were announced. Cox’s sister Kim Leadbeater emotionally stated: ”If I can be half the MP that Jo was, I know that I’ll do her proud.” 
The result has brought a welcome sigh of relief for the embattled leader of the Labour Party. Opponents and colleagues alike had cautioned that if Labour sustained a loss in Batley and Spen – which has been in Labour hands since the 1997 general election – the party would likely have seen a change in leadership. Losing the electoral stronghold would have made Starmer’s position as Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition untenable. Remarkably, Leadbeater received a mere 323 votes more than the contesting Tory candidate, Ryan Stephenson. This tantalisingly close set of voting results meant that Leadbeater received 35.27 percent of the vote, while Stephenson earned 34.42 percent. 
Third in the race was none other than the seasoned pro-Palestine politician, George Galloway. Receiving a significant 21.92 percent of the vote, Galloway was able to successfully draw many voters who had previously been staunchly pro-Labour. After earning third place, in his classically flamboyant style, Galloway threatened to challenge the results in the courts.
In his remarks to the media, Galloway made a number of heated accusations relating to the election campaign process:
“The whole election campaign was dominated by lazy and false tropes about our campaign, about the thousands of people that voted for us, about their motives for doing so, in a way which defamed them as much as it defamed me.
“So on multiple grounds we will apply to the courts for this election result to be set aside…You’ll be hearing much more of this from me directly from the horse’s mouth over the next hours and days.” 
Since being elected as Labour Party leader in April 2020, Keir Starmer has been losing the electoral support of the influential Muslim working class population, which had traditionally been fond of Labour. The loss of support has to do with Starmer’s relatively tame response to the recent Israeli aggression against the Palestinians, which resulted in more than 250 civilian deaths and saw numerous buildings obliterated. Furthermore, Starmer’s abrupt cancellation of an open iftar event during the month of Ramadan further dampened his popularity among Muslims. The Labour leader withdrew from the event after the Board of Deputies of British Jews cited a tweet made by one of the event’s organisers. It turns out that the organiser in question had simply called for the boycotting of Israeli dates, in order to support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. 
To make matters worse, Labour was rocked by a 2020 bombshell report which revealed that numerous party members shared disturbing Islamophobic views and sentiments. In addition, Starmer’s reputation took another hit when the investigative journalist Asa Winstanley revealed that a former member of Unit 8200 – the Israeli military’s intelligence unit – was employed to manage the social media operations of the Leader’s Office. 
With Starmer at the helm, there is a generally frustrated Muslim voter population which no longer finds any affinity with Labour. Ali Milani is a prominent member of the Labour Muslim Network, which is the group that released the late 2020 report regarding the party’s Islamophobic tendencies. In a recent interview, Milani said that the latest by-election results are a serious sign of concern for Labour’s prospects in other Muslim-dominated constituencies:
“There is pretty unprecedented dissatisfaction among Muslim voters, not just in Batley, but around the country…
“Batley and Spen should be won by Labour easily…There are seats in places like London, Bradford, and Sheffield with significant Muslim populations which are going to make Batley and Spen look like a picnic if we lose any more ground on this. This is the moment, the alarm bells have gone off, we need to act now.” 
Shaheer is a regular contributor for Islam21c. He maintains a strong interest in current affairs, as well as the changing global conditions of Muslim populations. Prior to joining Islam21c, he developed a number of years’ experience in the health and social care sector and has previously volunteered at the Muslim Youth Helpline.