Why the UK election’s victorious pro-Palestinian candidates matter to Australia

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jul10,2024
Key Points
  • Several pro-Palestinian independent and minor party candidates won office in the recent UK election.
  • Analysts say the results have lessons for Australian politicians.
  • Senator Fatima Payman resigned from the ALP last week due to differences over Palestinian issues.
The UK Labour Party recorded , taking 412 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons.
But it’s the votes the party lost to pro-Palestinian candidates that has been the focus for some analysts, and they say Australian politicians will need to learn from the UK experience heading into the next election.

These experts say the Australian Labor Party (ALP) will be seriously thinking about how to hold on to voters who disagree with its stance on the Hamas-Israel war or broader issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — especially in the wake of Western Australian senator Fatima Payman crossing the floor and later quitting the ALP over these issues.

Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election

As leader of the UK Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn stepped down in 2020 within the party.
He was expelled from the party in 2024 but was returned to his seat as an independent in the recent election. In the lead-up to the vote, he campaigned against Labour by demanding a ceasefire in Gaza, recognition of a Palestinian state and a two-state solution.
“If you re-elect me as an independent MP in Islington North, I promise to always stand up for the people of Gaza, and for the only path to a just and lasting peace: an end to the occupation of Palestine,” he said while casting his vote.
Corbyn was one of five independent candidates who won seats on similar platforms, alongside four successful UK Green Party candidates who also highlighted the Hamas-Israel war and other concerns relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Pro-Palestinian independent Shockat Adam won in Leicester and held up a Palestinian keffiyeh in his election speech while in Blackburn, Labour’s Kate Hollern lost to the independent Adnan Hussain.

Pro-Palestinian independents also won in Batley and Dewsbury, which both have a significant number of Muslim voters.
Politics and international relations researcher at Macquarie University Tom Howe told SBS News the Labour Party lost votes in traditionally safe seats over the issue and failed to account for how well other candidates would mobilise.
“[UK] Labour have taken their inner-city constituencies for granted, and taken left-wing voters for granted, and I think that’s going to come and bite them in the arse essentially.”

He said it wasn’t just Muslim voters who disagreed with UK Labour’s stance, but also many other voters who have traditionally supported the party.

What do the results mean for Australia?

Ian Hall is a professor of international relations at Griffith University. He said the results of the UK election will be “really worrying” for the ALP.
“It is Gaza that’s this focal point, and it’s created this discontent amongst some communities about the platforms of the major parties.
“In a sense, it matters much less in the UK system where you have over 650 MPs and a ‘landslide victory’ and so on. But in the Australian system where you’ve got very thin margins, there’s going to be real concern within the ALP about that.”

Howe said the mobilisation of Muslim and pro-Palestinian voters “poses a challenge for the West, including Australia”.

He said speaking generally,”These voters don’t agree with established foreign policy and they clearly can organise very well and very effectively. So, if I was in the ALP, I would be quite concerned about that, particularly in the inner-city seats.”
Polling analyst Kos Samaras is the founder of the political consultancy firm RedBridge and a former Labor campaign strategist.
He told SBS World News the UK results were an “ominous warning” that the ALP might lose Muslim voters.
“If we extrapolate (the number of Muslim voters in the UK) to the situation in Australia, the number of Muslim Australians in some of the seats we’ve been discussing is far greater than in the UK”.
Samaras singled out Blaxland and Watson in western Sydney and Calwell in north-west Melbourne as three federal seats where over 40 per cent of Labor’s primary vote came from Muslim Australians.
More than a month before she crossed the floor on the issue of Palestinian statehood, , accusing Israel of conducting a “genocide” in Gaza and criticising Australian political leaders for “performative gestures”.
At the time, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese argued the government had condemned Hamas’ attack on Israel on 7 October, while also “calling out” Israel for its actions since — saying it had a right to self-defence but the way it defended itself mattered.
He said the government had called for the release of hostages, voted in the United Nations for a “cessation of hostilities”, called for humanitarian assistance and voted for .
The Labor government has consistently rehashed its support for a and indicated it would support Palestinian statehood as part of a peace process towards this outcome.

Israel has previously told the United Nations’ top court it is doing everything it could to protect the civilian population in Gaza, and strongly denied charges of genocide.

Muslim voters in Australia

Fatima Payman’s exit from the ALP came after on the recognition of Palestinian statehood.
Labor sought to amend the motion to include the wording “as part of a peace process in support of a two-state solution and a just and enduring peace” but this was voted down.
In the fallout of Payman’s resignation, the Labor Party was questioned on whether they risked losing Muslim and multicultural votes in next year’s federal election.

Albanese said the nation’s political parties should maintain social unity and expressed concern about the emergence of groups such as Muslim Vote and Muslim Votes Matter.

“I don’t think, and don’t want, Australia to go down the road of faith-based political parties because what that will do is undermine social cohesion,” he told reporters on Friday.
The two groups aim to recruit independent candidates to run in Labor-held seats with large Arab and Muslim populations.
In response to media questioning after her resignation, Payman said she had no affiliation with groups like Muslim Vote.

“I’ve only had one meeting with them, like I have many meetings across the board with many community leaders and members.”

The threat from both community independents and the Greens means that Labor may face minority government if the party serves a second term.
Opposition leader Peter Dutton said such a result would be a “disaster”, as this coalition would include “Greens, the Green-teals … and Muslim candidates from Western Sydney”.
Cricket legend Usman Khawaja — who last year — described Dutton’s comments as “an absolute disgrace” and accused him of “fuelling Islamophobia”.
Deputy Greens leader Mehreen Faruqi on Sunday said she is not surprised Muslim communities want to field candidates, saying their voices have “for too long been ignored”.
“People of colour and Muslims have for too long been ignored in this country,” she told ABC TV.
SBS has reached out to the prime minister’s office for comment.

With additional reporting by AAP.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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