Sir Keir Starmer was facing criticism on Thursday night after failing to wear a poppy when filming a video message about Islamophobia, having earlier worn one as he delivered a speech about the Middle East.
Allies insisted the symbol had been removed by mistake rather than because of fears it could have negative connotations for some Muslim voters.
A spokesman for Sir Keir said: “It was absolutely not purposely removed. The content of the video had nothing to do with him not wearing a poppy.”
The Labour leader wore the poppy on Tuesday morning as he delivered a central London speech on his approach to the war in Gaza.
Later that day, when he filmed a video to mark the start of Islamophobia Awareness Month, which takes place every November, the symbol was gone.
The Telegraph understands the error may have occurred because Sir Keir moved the poppy from his suit jacket to his overcoat after the speech.
Critics on social media pointed out the discrepancy and questioned whether the Labour leader had taken the poppy off his jacket because he was “trying to win Muslim votes”.
Kevin Hollinrake, a Tory business minister, said:
I’d like to think there’s a perfectly innocent explanation, but I’d be interested to know why https://t.co/48jx3Sz38z
— Kevin Hollinrake MP (@kevinhollinrake) November 2, 2023
Nigel Farage, the former Brexit Party leader asked:
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) November 2, 2023
Simon Danczuk, an ex-Labour MP, accused Sir Keir of “celebrating a failed multiculturalism” with his speech, in which he praised Britain’s race relations. He added that this “apparently also means removing your poppy when you’re trying to win Muslim votes”.
Starmer celebrating a failed multi-culturalism. Which apparently also means removing your poppy when you’re trying to win Muslim votes… https://t.co/iUWt3Bt2Qa
— Simon Danczuk (@SimonDanczuk) November 2, 2023
The row came as Sir Keir faced fresh internal pressure over his opposition to a ceasefire in Gaza, which has sparked a Labour mutiny.
Leaked audio emerged on Thursday in which Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, accused him of lacking “empathy” and “humanity”.
It came as a suspended Labour backbencher announced that he plans to sue a Tory MP who accused him of defending the actions of Hamas.
Andy McDonald had the whip suspended earlier this week over a speech in which he made reference to reference to the controversial “from the river to the sea” chant.
In a statement, the Middlesbrough MP said he will take legal action against Chris Clarkson over a social media post that “caused serious harm to my reputation”.
I have instructed my lawyers to take the first steps in commencing legal proceedings against @ChrisClarksonMP for a highly defamatory statement about me.
I will not stand by and have my reputation traduced. pic.twitter.com/PP4Euqw3U1
— Andy McDonald MP (@AndyMcDonaldMP) November 2, 2023
On Friday, the Labour leader will try to move on the agenda as he delivers a speech in the North East on his plans to get Britain building again.
He will attack Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, for overseeing Britain’s economic decline and declare next week’s King’s Speech a “manifesto for stagnation”.
“Britain needs this King’s Speech to kick off a big build. The Tories can’t do this. Rishi Sunak is too weak to stand up to the blockers on his backbenchers,” he will say.
“I have no time for Tory excuses - politics is about choices. Do you face up to tough decisions? Or you duck them?
“That has always been the test. Wherever Labour finds barriers to British success we will bulldoze through them.”
It came as a suspended Labour backbencher announced he plans to sue a Tory MP who accused him of defending the actions of Hamas.
Mr McDonald had the whip suspended earlier this week over a speech in which he made reference to the “from the river to the sea” chant.
He said in a statement that he will take legal action against Chris Clarkson over a social media post which “caused serious harm to my reputation”.