Muslim group issues 18 demands for Keir Starmer to win back voters lost over Gaza

A Muslim campaign group has issued Sir Keir Starmer with 18 demands in order to win back support lost due to his stance on Israel’s war in Gaza.

The Muslim Vote, which aims to organise voters against MPs who did not back a ceasefire in the conflict, has called for the Labour leader to apologise for his early stance on Israel’s campaign against Hamas.

And it has urged Sir Keir to promise to cut military ties with Israel and let Muslims pray in schools and for Labour figures to return “zionist money”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has lost voters over his stance on Gaza (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has lost voters over his stance on Gaza (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)

Days after the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) hailed the local election results as a wake-up call over politicians’ response to the atrocities in Gaza, The Muslim Vote reissued its list of demands.

Labour’s campaign chief Pat McFadden has admitted the party’s stance on the war cost it support in the local elections. He said it was a factor in some places which he was not surprised by.

On Tuesday Rachel Reeves became the latest senior figure to acknowledge the difficulty posed by Labour’s stance on the conflict, saying she “regrets whenever someone decides that they cannot bring themselves to vote for the Labour Party”.

She said: “Anybody who sees the scenes unfolding on our television screens, including this weekend in Rafah and people being displaced multiple times but also people that have seen the taking of hostages at a music festival in Israel can’t be help but be moved by those scenes.

“And that’s why we have called for an immediate ceasefire to allow aid into Gaza unimpeded, but also the release of hostages that are still in underground tunnels in Gaza. They must be freed as well. Now, I recognise that there are some people who didn’t vote for Labour last week because they did have concerns.”

But left-wing campaign group Momentum called on Labour to do more to pressure Rishi Sunak and foreign secretary Lord Cameron into suspending arms sales to Israel. As Israel launched an attack on the southern city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, a spokesman for the group said: “Plainly, Israel is acting like a rogue state - the UK Government must now suspend arms sales to prevent further UK complicity, and Labour should be pressuring Sunak and Cameron accordingly.”

Labour lost its majority of 13 years in Oldham, which had already been whittled down due to defections last month over the party’s approach on Gaza. And sources from Labour’s West Midlands team have claimed some Muslim voters stayed home, while many backed independent pro-Gaza candidate Akhmed Yakoob.

MCB secretary general Zara Mohammed said: “The dissatisfaction with politicians is palpable, and the response to the atrocities in Gaza is only the tip of the iceberg.

Labour’s West Midlands mayor Richard Parker narrowly beat Conservative incumbent Andy Street, with independent pro-Palestine candidate Akhmed Yakoob hoovering up votes (Getty Images)
Labour’s West Midlands mayor Richard Parker narrowly beat Conservative incumbent Andy Street, with independent pro-Palestine candidate Akhmed Yakoob hoovering up votes (Getty Images)

“These election results are a wake-up call to all parties: every vote counts. Politicians can’t take anyone for granted, especially not British Muslims.”

A key demand of The Muslim Vote is for Sir Keir to apologise for “greenlighting a genocide” and for not supporting an SNP-led ceasefire vote last November.

The demand relates to Sir Keir’s apparent initial support for Israel withholding humanitarian aid from Gaza.

Asked on LBC on October 11 if cutting off power and water was an appropriate response, Sir Keir replied: "I think that Israel does have that right. It is an ongoing situation.

"Obviously everything should be done within international law, but I don’t want to step away from the core principles that Israel has a right to defend herself and Hamas bears responsibility for the terrorist acts."

But he later rowed back the remarks amid concerns within the party that it has angered voters, particularly those in Muslim communities.

Despite his attempts to clarify the remarks, the clip of Sir Keir on LBC is still widely shared by those attacking the party’s approach to the Middle East.

Other demands include a promise to sanction companies operating in occupied Palestinian territories, place a travel ban on Israeli politicians who have “prosecuted this war” and to ensure insurance quotes are not higher for people named Muhammad.

The Muslim Vote group describes itself as a broad collective with the support of a “huge portion” of the Muslim community. It is supported by 24 groups, including some which Michael Gove has said in parliament might fall foul of his department’s new definition of extremism.

Groups he named that “give rise to concern for their Islamist orientation and views” were Muslim Engagement and Development (Mend) and the Muslim Association of Britain.

Both groups, which back The Muslim Vote, have rejected Mr Gove’s characterisation.

Its website displays a list of all the constituencies with at least 10 per cent Muslim voters, which lets users see how they have voted on past ceasefire motions.

It is then planning to add an advisory name in each seat of who supporters should vote for, who it says will be backed by local civil society organisations.

The seats which look the most perilous belong to Birmingham Ladywood MP Shabana Mahmood, who it says abstained on the vote, as well as Bethan Green and Stepney’s Rushanara Ali. Both have more than 40 per cent Muslim electorates.

But the group appears to ignore a ceasefire motion passed by the Labour Party on a chaotic night in the House of Commons in February.

The group’s website states: “Muslims and all people who stand for justice agree that the current political class does not represent us. Peacefully, politically, and persistently we will vote them out.”

Regarding its demands, it said: “There is more but that’ll do for starters. Our asks are sophisticated and we’ve built consensus around them.”

Labour was asked to comment.

The Muslim Vote’s list of demands is below:

1. Apologise for your comments greenlighting a genocide and for not backing the ceasefire in Oct/Nov 2023

2. Sanctions on companies operating in occupied territories. Sanctions on settlers

3. Recognise Palestine as a state

4. Travel ban on all Israeli politicians that prosecuted this war and support the illegal occupation

5. End military ties with Israel

6. Issue guidance that Muslims are allowed to pray at school

7. Implement findings of people’s review of Prevent — not Shawcross

8. Remove the extremism definition that [Michael] Gove introduced

9. Commit to full implementation of Royal Charter re media regulation

10. Adopt the APPG definition of Islamophobia

11. Commit to a review of public sector equality duty

12. Increase council and public health funding for the 10 per cent most deprived areas in the country to finally address systemic and chronic health inequities as detailed in the Marmot Review and revisited by the Health Foundation 10 years later

13. Deliver alternative student finance

14. Ensure Sharia-compliant pensions are available at every workplace, so the one-third of Muslims without a pension get one

15. Ensure insurance quotes don’t cost more for someone called “Muhammad”

16. Commit 7 per cent of the local government pension scheme/public sector pensions to ethical and Islamic funds

17. Oppose Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) bill. Kick it out of law

18. Remove the archaic “spiritual influence” offence from statute