Labour has been cheered by the fact that some Muslims did not vote for their party.
The process began before the election when a “senior Labour source” was quoted saying, “We’re haemorrhaging votes among Muslim voters, and the reason for that is what Keir has been doing on antisemitism”.
The disgusting message is that the reason why Muslims are choosing to reject Labour is because they are antisemites.
After the election two claims were made.
One was that ward data for Batley and Spen had shown that the party made good inroads in Spen Valley which usually votes solidly for the Tories.
This was tacked on to another message from a Labour source that the party “basically built a new electoral coalition in six weeks.
“Lost the conservative Muslim vote over gay rights and Palestine, and won back a lot of 2019 Tory voters. This result shows we’re reconnecting with the wider electorate again”.
That was backed by left winger Paul Mason who tweeted that Galloway’s vote “was driven by a mixture of the youthful radicalism that put tens of thousands of young Muslims on the streets during the latest Gaza atrocities and the homophobia and anti-feminism of some among the older generation”.
But these comments avoid the many reasons that voters—Muslims or not—might have chosen not to come out and vote for Labour. Certainly the lack of support for Palestine might be one, and so might be the woeful “constructive criticism” of the Tories that have let them ride out the pandemic horror.
And perhaps Muslims didn’t like being taken for granted as a group that would vote Labour because there was no alternative.
During the election Labour rushed out a leaflet that promised to support Palestinian rights and to fight Islamophobia. Was that also pandering to antisemitism and homophobia?
It’s wretched and racist politics to see Muslims as uniquely reactionary, homophobic and antisemitic.
It’s also a very bad electoral strategy to swap people who have always voted Labour with a wavering group that don’t like some of what the Tories have done during the pandemic.
That policy can end up with more areas replicating the Labour experience in Scotland where large sections of voters seem to have been permanently repulsed by the party.
The Labour left has been left rudderless by the result.
The much-expected defeat in Batley and Spen was to be the signal for the left to mount a new leadership challenge to Keir Starmer.
Of course figures such as Angela Rayner and left winger Dawn Butler will deny that. But there were strong signals they were ready to go and had already canvassed trade union figures for support.
That’s all gone. For Labour’s left, challenges to Starmer’s right wing leadership are conditioned by success in elections, not something more fundamental.
And they now have to raise once again the tired pleas of “let us in” to Starmer who has no intention of making any concessions to them.
After the result, Butler tweeted, “This is a lesson in team @UKLabour Everyone pulling together.”
Starmer isn’t “pulling together”. He hasn’t even let Jeremy Corbyn return to being a Labour MP after he expelled last December.
The Labour left has to pretend that Starmer can be persuaded and pushed to become more radical. But he will listen far more to those such as Labour national executive chair Dame Margaret Beckett.
She said last week, “Anybody in the shadow cabinet who says Keir is on probation cannot be described as a supporter. In my opinion they don’t belong in the shadow cabinet.”
Beckett, who systematically undermined Jeremy Corbyn as leader, will be wanting more blows against the left.
But the real problem is that the Labour left is way too cowardly and conciliatory to mount a real fight.
Last Saturday his shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves announced that Labour would force public sector bosses to “make, buy and sell more in Britain.”
It would push public sector bodies to prioritise buying from companies based in Britain as a way to help “local” industries.
The plan would include a law demanding public organisations declare how much they were buying from British suppliers.
Reeves justified her plan by saying that only one British based company was shortlisted for a contract in building the High Speed 2 rail line.
She pretends to help workers by telling them they have interests in common with their bosses just because they are British-based.
The flipside of this is to say that workers in Britain are in competition with those abroad.
Again, the Labour left had no answer. Instead of challenging them, former shadow chancellor John McDonnell pointed out that Jeremy Corbyn promised something similar in 2018.
British politics is in a terrible impasse.
Johnson seems to escape every crisis despite his appalling record.
At some point he will meet his richly-deserved rendezvous with disaster. But the last year has shown it’s not enough to just watch and hope he will be brought down by his own crimes.
What would really shake him would be a generalisation of struggle and resistance in the streets and workplaces.
Building struggles such as these, and raising the level of strikes, is not simple.
But focusing on such battles is will prove to be far more fruitful than endlessly attempting to push Starmer leftwards.
The whole atmosphere inside Labour hinged this week on the votes of a few hundred voters in Batley and Spen. The real struggles that change society exist outside it.
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