Much has been made of Labour’s success in the election. It is early days and there will be plenty of time for a detailed analysis of the results, but there are indications that Palestine was far more important than either of the main parties thought was possible.

Five independent candidates have won seats overturning a Labour majority in their areas. Others have caused well known candidates to win their seat on a reduced majority, having been forced to fight for every vote. (A sixth Independent was former DUP candidate Alex Easton.)

The most famous of course is Jeremy Corbyn who won Islington North as an independent with 24,120 votes against the Labour Party’s 16,873 votes. Jeremy Corbyn has always been an outspoken supporter of the Palestinian people.

In other surprises, Iqbal Mohamed beat Labour in the West Yorkshire constituency of Dewsbury and Batley by a large margin with 15,641 votes compared to the Labour candidate with 8,707 votes. 

Mohamed was formerly a Labour member but quit the party over Keir Starmer’s early stance on Israel and Palestine. He stood as a pro-Gaza candidate and in defence of local issues. On winning the seat he said, “I’m truly honoured and privileged to be given the opportunity to serve the people of my constituency.”

In Blackburn there was another shock when Labour’s Kate Hollern lost by just under 200 votes to independent Adnan Hussain. Considered an ultra-safe Labour seat represented by Labour MPs for 69 years, Hussain managed to unseat Labour in the northwest town. 

The independent declared in his acceptance speech, “This is for Gaza” and told Middle East Eye, “Gaza is important and it’s the reason why I stood. But poverty is a massive issue too and so is healthcare.”

In a shock result of the night, shadow Cabinet Office minister Jonathan Ashworth lost his seat in Leicester South to independent Shockat Adam. After winning by just under 1,000 votes, Adam said, “This is for Gaza”. He commented, “This was a grassroots, community, constituency run campaign” and said he was a “voice for the voiceless.”

An independent candidate has also made a surprise gain from Labour in Birmingham Perry Barr in the West Midlands. Ayoub Khan won with 13,303 votes, with Labour’s former MP Khalid Lahmodd in second on 12,796 votes. Khan had quit the Lib Dems in May after claiming he was told to be less vocal on Gaza.

Apart from Corbyn these candidates were largely outside the view of the left. None of them featured in our Election Special list of candidates. In truth, little is known about them. At the same time independents standing for Gaza managed to split the Labour vote.

Faiza Shaheen who had not been allowed to stand for Labour in the seat she had represented so well because of her support for Palestine, Chingford and Woodford Green, stood as an independent and achieved almost the same number of votes as the Labour candidate. This spit allowed Ian Duncan Smith to retain the seat.

Wes Streeting only narrowly managed to hold onto his seat in Ilford North, where the independent Palestinian candidate Leanne Mohamad received 32.2% of the vote to Wes Streeting’s 33.4%, and Andrew Feinstein managed to reduce Keir Starmer’s majority and came second in the Holborn and St Pancras seat.

Jess Phillips narrowly won against Jody McIntyre a pro-Gaza independent in her constituency of Birmingham Yardley. In 2019 she had a 10,659 majority.

It is true that these examples bucked the trend, as many independents and candidates from the Workers’ Party lost their deposits and achieved votes well below the Reform Party. There are, of course, many reasons for this mixed picture, but all the indications are that when candidates stand in a constituency with strong grass roots support they can make a difference.

As Sir John Curtice, Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, pointed out, Labour may well have won the election with an overall majority of 172 seats. However, this landslide victory has largely been secured on the back of a dramatic 20-point decline in Conservative support.  Turnout was well down compared with recent elections, falling by eight points to 59.9%.

This will be the second lowest turnout ever in a UK election since 1885, suggesting that many were disengaged from the process. The share of the vote in England at least has hardly changed since the last two elections.

It wouldn’t be surprising if Starmer’s failure to show any concern or empathy for the people of Gaza was an important factor in the apathy or alienation of many of the electorate. This will need to be the subject of further investigation when the ink has dried on the results.

In the meantime, the hope must be that Starmer will take heed and ensure that the need for a ceasefire in Gaza will be the top of his agenda. In his first day as Prime Minister he has emphasised the need for a ceasefire and a two-state solution in calls with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, however since the election the Israelis have continued to bomb Gaza killing at least 150 civilians.

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