UK elections 2024: Pro-Palestine candidates’ victories stun as Labour sweeps to win

Keir Starmer set to become prime minister after Labour landslide ends Conservatives’ 14-year rule, but party stung by Gaza protest votes

Daniel Hilton

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer delivers a speech during a victory rally in London early on 5 July, 2024 (Justin Tallis/AFP)

Keir Starmer’s Labour party has swept to a landslide victory in the UK‘s general election, though it appears to have haemorrhaged votes to pro-Palestinian candidates, several of whom picked up shock wins.

With almost all results in on Friday morning, Starmer is set to become British Prime Minister later on Friday with his party winning 410 out of 650 parliamentary seats. The outgoing Conservatives, led by Rishi Sunak, plummeted to just 119 MPs, while the centrist Liberal Democrats secured 71 MPs.

Though the exit poll predicted Nigel Farage’s anti-immigration party Reform UK to perform better than expected, in the end its four MPs were outnumbered by independents running on platforms explicitly denouncing Israel’s war on Gaza.

For months, many voters across the UK had voiced dissatisfaction with Labour, especially over the party’s early stance when it called for an “enduring cessation of fighting” in Gaza instead of an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire.

Starmer also appeared to back Israel’s decision to cut Gaza from power, water and other necessities, despite legal experts condemning the move as a war crime.

Although the party later shifted its position and Labour denied Starmer was supportive of Israel’s total siege, much of the British public said they felt compelled to vote for an unwaveringly pro-ceasefire candidate and party.

Chief among the shock independent victories was Shockat Adam, who unseated Jon Ashworth, a prominent member of Labour’s shadow cabinet, in the East Midlands constituency of Leicester South.

In the northwestern ex-industrial town of Blackburn, Adnan Hussain unseated Labour’s Kate Hollern.

The 34-year-old solicitor defeated both the Labour incumbent and the challenge of George Galloway’s Workers’ Party of Britain, which was also running a pro-Gaza campaign. Galloway himself lost his seat in northwest England’s Rochdale.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was expelled from the party over his response to criticism of Labour’s response to antisemitism allegations, ran as an independent in London’s Islington North, demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Despite a huge effort by Labour to unseat him, Corbyn beat his former party by more than 7,000 votes.

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In a statement issued after his re-election was confirmed, Corbyn said victories for independent candidates were a warning to Starmer’s incoming government “that dissent cannot be crushed without consequences”.

In Birmingham Perry Barr, independent Ayoub Khan pulled off a shock win against Labour’s long-standing parliamentarian Khalid Mahmood.

Like many independents, Khan won the backing of much of the constituency’s Muslim population, as well as others critical of the Israeli war on Gaza and Labour’s policies on tackling poverty.

Those dynamics also powered independent Iqbal Hussain Mohamed to a resounding victory in the West Yorkshire constituency of Dewsbury and Batley against Labour’s Heather Iqbal. Mohamed won 15,641 votes compared to Iqbal’s 8,707.

Elsewhere, there was a narrow loss for British-Palestinian candidate Leanne Mohamad in Ilford North, where she was just 500 votes shy of Labour heavyweight Wes Streeting, who is expected to become health minister.

There were also successes for the left-wing Green Party, which has campaigned heavily in several areas on its support for a ceasefire in Gaza and the suspension of arms sales to Israel. It won four seats, having previously held just one.

‘Sunlight of hope’

Starmer, who will become prime minister later on Friday, hailed the results as a “sunlight of hope”. His party’s majority of 170 is the largest since Tony Blair’s victory in 1997.

Yet the election appeared to reflect voter dissatisfaction with the Conservatives – who had been in power for 14 years and presided over a period of chaotic politics, economic decline and Britain’s contentious departure of the EU – rather than a mass endorsement of Labour and its policies.

Labour’s vote share stood at just 35 percent, 1.4 percent more than 2019, when it suffered a crushing loss to Boris Johnson’s Conservatives, and five percent lower than Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour won in 2017.

Starmer himself fought off the challenge of pro-Palestinian independent Andrew Feinstein.

The Labour leader’s 18,884 votes in Holborn and St Pancras was down 17 percent from the last election, with former South African MP and anti-apartheid campaigner Feinstein in second with 7,312.

Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak conceded defeat early Friday, taking responsibility for his party’s worst-ever election result and saying it had been a “difficult night”.

Several prominent Tory MPs lost their seats, including former prime minister Liz Truss, ministers Penny Mordaunt and Grant Shapps, and arch Brexiter Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Pro-Palestine candidates’ victories stun as Labour sweeps to UK election win

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