Why the winning pro-Palestinian candidates in the UK election matter to Australia

Most important points
  • In the recent UK elections, several pro-Palestinian candidates from independent and small parties won seats.
  • Analysts say Australian politicians can learn from the results.
  • Senator Fatima Payman resigned from the ALP last week over differences on Palestinian issues.
The British Labour Party has recorded with which he took 412 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons.
But it is the votes the party lost to pro-Palestinian candidates that some analysts are focusing on, saying Australian politicians should learn from the UK experience as they head into the next election.

These experts say the Australian Labor Party (ALP) will be giving serious thought to how to retain voters who disagree with its stance on the Hamas-Israel war or broader issues relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – especially after Western Australia Senator Fatima Payman walked off the floor and later quit the ALP over these issues.

Re-election of Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn stepped down as leader of the British Labour Party in 2020 within the party.
He was expelled from the party in 2024, but returned to his seat as an independent in the recent election. In the run-up to the vote, he campaigned against Labour by demanding a ceasefire in Gaza, recognition of Palestinian statehood and a two-state solution.
“If you re-elect me as an independent MP for Islington North, I promise that I will 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 as he cast his vote.
Corbyn was one of five independent candidates who won seats on similar platforms, alongside four successful British Green Party candidates who also highlighted the war between Hamas and Israel and other concerns regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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

Pro-Palestinian independents also won in Batley and Dewsbury, two towns with significant numbers of Muslim voters.
Tom Howe, a researcher in politics and international relations at Macquarie University, told SBS News the Labor Party was losing votes in traditionally safe seats over the issue and that he was not taking into account the extent to which other candidates might mobilise.
“[UK] “Labour takes its inner city constituencies for granted, and it takes its left wing voters for granted. I think that’s going to get them into trouble.”

He said it was not just Muslim voters who disagreed with the British Labour Party’s position, but also many other voters who traditionally support the party.

What do the results mean for Australia?

Ian Hall, professor of international relations at Griffith University, said the results of the British election would be “really worrying” for the ALP.
“Gaza is the flashpoint and that has led to discontent in some communities about the programs of the major parties.
“In a sense it matters much less in the British system, where you have 650-plus MPs and a ‘big win’ and so on. But in the Australian system, where you have very small margins, there will be real concern within the ALP.”

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

He said generally: “These voters don’t agree with established foreign policy and they can clearly organise very well and very effectively. So if I was in the ALP I would be concerned about that, particularly in the inner city seats.”
Poll analyst Kos Samaras is the founder of the political consultancy RedBridge and a former campaign strategist for the Labor Party.
He told SBS World News the UK results were an “ominous warning” that the ALP could 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’re talking about is much higher than in the UK.”
Samaras named Blaxland and Watson in Sydney’s west and Calwell in Melbourne’s north-west as three federal seats where more than 40 percent of Labor’s vote came from Muslim Australians.
More than a month before she spoke on the issue of Palestinian statehood, which accused Israel of committing a “genocide” in Gaza and criticised Australian political leaders for their “performative gestures”.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese argued at the time that the government had condemned Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel, but he also called Israel “accountable” for its actions since then. He said Israel had the right to defend itself, but that the manner in which it defended itself mattered.
He said the government had called for the release of hostages, voted for a “ceasefire” at the United Nations, called for humanitarian aid and voted for .
The Labour government has backed a and indicated that it would support Palestinian statehood as part of a peace process that would lead to this outcome.

Israel has previously told the United Nations High Court that it is doing everything it can to protect the civilian population in Gaza. Israel has strongly denied the accusations of genocide.

Muslim voters in Australia

Fatima Payman left the ALP after on the recognition of the Palestinian state.
The Labour Party wanted to amend the motion by adding the wording ‘as part of a peace process in support of a two-state solution and a just and lasting peace’, but this was rejected.
Following Payman’s resignation, the Labor Party was questioned about the risk of losing the votes of Muslim and multicultural parties in next year’s federal election.

Albanese said the country’s political parties must maintain social unity and expressed concern about the rise of groups such as Muslim Vote and Muslim Votes Matter.

“I don’t think, and I don’t want, Australia to go down the path of religious political parties because that just undermines social cohesion,” he told reporters on Friday.
The two groups want to recruit independent candidates to run in constituencies held by the Labor Party with large Arab and Muslim populations.
In response to media questions after her resignation, Payman said she had no affiliation with groups like Muslim Vote.

“I only met with them once, while I have meetings with community leaders and members more often.”

The threat from both local independents and the Greens means Labor could face a minority government if the party wins a second term.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said such a result would be a “disaster” because the coalition would consist of “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 “stoking Islamophobia”.
Greens vice-chair Mehreen Faruqi said Sunday she was not surprised that Muslim communities wanted to nominate candidates, saying their voices had been “ignored for too long”.
“People of colour and Muslims have been ignored in this country for too long,” she told ABC TV.
SBS has contacted the Prime Minister’s office for comment.

With additional reporting by AAP.

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