Keir Starmer has been warned not to take Muslim voters for granted, as polling shows support for the Labour party, and his personal ratings, falling among Muslim communities.
Muslim voters have traditionally been strongly aligned to Labour, with constituencies with large Muslim populations considered among the party’s safest seats.
But since the end of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, amid a swing to the right in domestic and foreign policy, and concerns over Starmer’s willingness to tackle Islamophobia in the party, that historic alignment is being increasingly called into question.
According to the poll of 504 British Muslims, carried out by Survation on behalf of the Labour Muslim Network, 72% said they identified with Labour and the party had a net favourability rating of +42%.
However, 37% said their view of Labour had become more unfavourable in the past 12 months, as opposed to 25% whose view of the party had become more favourable – a net -12% drop in favourability.
“This polling shows that support from Muslims can’t be taken for granted,” said Zarah Sultana, the MP for Coventry South.
“The party needs to show that Labour is loud and clear on issues these communities care about, whether that’s tackling inequality and investing in public services, or standing up to racism and advocating for justice on the world stage, from Palestine to Kashmir. This is both the right thing to do and as this polling shows, it’s an electoral necessity.”
Answers to questions about Starmer’s leadership were even more troubling for Labour. Asked their opinion of Starmer, 22% of British Muslims had a favourable attitude towards his leadership, while 29% were unfavourable, giving the Labour leader a net favourability of -7%.
Perhaps surprisingly, while Boris Johnson had a net favourability of -32% among British Muslims, 20% nevertheless had a favourable attitude towards the prime minister, almost as high a proportion as Starmer, in spite of Johnson’s history of Islamophobic rhetoric.
Last November, Labour Muslim Network released a report that highlighted a range of concerns about Islamophobia in Labour, noting in particular the leaked report into Labour’s governance and legal unit, the party’s approach to the government’s anti-radicalisation Prevent strategy, and general anxiety over the party’s approach to Palestine.
Polling at the time found 55% did not “trust the leadership of the Labour party to tackle Islamophobia effectively” and 48% did not have confidence in the party’s complaints procedure to deal with Islamophobia.
Ali Milani, a Labour councillor in Hillingdon, said the poll showed the longstanding loyalty of Muslims to the Labour party was at risk. “Too many Muslims feel that their loyalty has not been returned or respected by our party,” he said.
“For those of us that have been sounding these alarm bells within Labour, this is clear and thorough evidence. We have to act now and with urgency.
“I desperately want the Labour party to win again. But for us to have a chance to win – in Batley and Spen and around the country – we have to earn the trust and support of Muslim voters once again.”
A Labour spokesperson said Starmer, his deputy, Angela Rayner, and the party’s general secretary, David Evans, had met the Labour Muslim Network and were working with the group to implement the recommendations of its earlier report.
The spokesperson said: “The Labour party is committed to a strong relationship with the Muslim community, and in our pursuit of building a better, fairer, more secure future for all, we will continue to robustly stand up for the rights of Muslims everywhere.”