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Independent candidates hope to break duopoly in UK politics

Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer at the state opening of parliament on May 6, 2024

British Muslims have traditionally voted Labour; however the party’s stance on the US-Israeli genocide in Gaza has cast doubt on that support in the upcoming general elections, with many planning to vote for independent candidates. 

It is election time in the UK and disaffection with politics has never been more pronounced.

One area of deep divisions among voters is the two main political parties’ stance on the Gaza genocide.

This has been the trigger for independent candidates, such as Shakeela Bibi, who spent nearly two decades doing charity work in her home town, to run for parliament

Rishi Sunak openly said he's denying calls for a ceasefire, he is supporting Israel, he is supporting the genocide, refusing to stop arms sales knowing that the ICJ has ruled plausible genocide, knowing that the ICC is issuing arrest warrants for Netanyahu, Keir Starmer has gone one (step) further and said Israel has a right to cut off water, aid, and, electricity.

This is a man who had a humanitarian rights background.

Shakeela Bibi, Independent Parliamentary Candidate

But dissatisfaction with the Labour Party, which has traditionally attracted the majority of the Muslim vote, is something new.

In 2019, 83% of the Muslim vote went to Labour; that's not the case anymore. I've been out canvassing, I've been speaking to people and people are so disheartened. I know people who were strong Labour supporters, as I was myself, and they've all left the party. 

Shakeela Bibi, Independent Parliamentary Candidate

Winning over voters in constituencies with a sizable Muslim community like this one will be a challenge for either of the major political parties, but it'll be a bigger challenge for Labour.

Historically, Britain's Muslim community have voted Labour, but the party leadership's treatment of pro-Palestine MPs, and its stance on the ongoing genocide in Gaza, has put that vote, that support, in serious doubt.

At a local mosque and the streets of Dudley, Muslim voters make no qualms about how they feel and who they are voting for.

Very aggravated, and obviously they want to make their voice known.

And I feel like voting for independent is the way forward from now.

They are the ones that are pulling everything forward for us with regards to the genocide and the rights for the Palestinians.

Muslim Voter, Dudley, England

As Starmer launched his party's manifesto for government in Manchester earlier in June, he focused on economic growth and political stability, and not even a mention of Gaza.

A manifesto for wealth creation, a plan to change Britain.

Sir Keir Starmer, Leader of the Labour Party

It's an ongoing omission that has made not only British Muslims, but also non Muslims, to rethink their choices in response to the UK's current political class and its policies.

I do agree there's a correlation between people of the Muslim faith and people who were touched by the Gaza issue. But I also would say that it stretches much further than that.

I'm not a religious person. But something I often say to these guys and when we meet with people, we've got nothing in common but our values and that means we've got everything in common and an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Member of Public, Dudley, England

Across Britain, independent candidates like Shakeela Bibi hope this sentiment could carry them into office.

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