Leftist parties battle for ‘Gaza vote’ in UK general election

Palestine has become a major issue for some UK voters amid Israel’s war on Gaza [HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP/Getty-archive

“With a very heavy heart I have agreed to the toss of a coin to decide whether I or local independent candidate Adnan Hussain should stand,” wrote Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan.

Murray is running in the UK general election on 4 July, representing leftist firebrand George Galloway’s Workers Party of Britain in the northern English constituency of Blackburn.

Both Murray and lawyer Hussain are pro-Palestinian and are seeking to unseat the Labour Party, which has come under fire over its leadership’s stand on Israel’s war on Gaza. Muslim media outlet 5Pillars suggested a coin toss to determine which candidate should stand down.

Despite finding the idea “a bit daft”, Murray said he “was prepared to do it” but Hussain rejected it.

“This has to be done seriously. I’m not a man who plays games or tricks,” he said.

“I’m not happy for history to remember me as a man who flipped the coin on the back of representation that… would be provided for the Gazans in the house of parliament.”


While it appears there won’t be a coin toss in Blackburn, the episode highlights a broader challenge for supporters of Palestine as Israel’s war on Gaza approaches its ninth month, with at least 37,834 Palestinians killed.

Galloway’s Workers Party is fielding candidates in over 150 constituencies in its first general election with a manifesto that backs a one-state solution in Palestine and Israel, while pledging to decrease taxes on the lowest-paid workers and provide free meals to children in school.

Meanwhile, at least 422 independents are contesting seats, a sharp jump from the 142 who ran in the 2019 election. Though it isn’t immediately possible to identify each candidate’s political priorities, not all will be pro-Palestinian.

Thomas Lockwood, a PhD candidate in politics at York St John University, told The New Arab he wouldn’t be surprised if independents running on a Gaza ticket were in the minority and that many will be standing on local issues, such as saving a particular hospital, or for a pressure group, which could be campaigning for issues such as child poverty or parental rights.

But some candidates supportive of the Palestinian people are in competition, which could split the vote among the many Muslims and left-wingers guided by solidarity with the people of Gaza when casting their ballots.

Stratford and Bow

Halima Khan of the Workers Party was in Ramallah, the administrative centre of the occupied West Bank, when Israel’s war on Gaza began in October.

“I decided to stay in Jerusalem by Al-Aqsa [Mosque] because… if you’ve ever been to the Old City, it’s like Big Brother town,” Khan, 30, told The New Arab.

“I recognised that… I had to use my British privilege to actually be their witness and stand with them and be their eyes but also be the body that enters Al-Aqsa to protect it and protect the elderly.” Khan said she hadn’t wanted to return to the UK.

“It was my friends and the people that I lived with in Jerusalem that just said, ‘Halima, you have to, because who’s gonna fight for us better than you? You were there. You saw everything. Use your voice,'” she added.

Khan, who formerly worked for Labour, describes herself as a “whistleblower” after appearing in a 2022 Al Jazeera documentary about the party.

She and Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) national campaigns coordinator Fiona Lali, 26, are separately contesting London’s Stratford and Bow, one of 650 constituencies across the UK.

They are among 10 choices before voters in the area, from Labour’s Uma Kumaran to Conservative Kane Blackwell, and Joe Hudson-Small of the Greens. Independent Omar Faruk has the endorsement of the Muslim Vote campaign, a group seeking to mobilise the Muslim community behind pro-Palestine candidates from outside the Labour and Conservative parties.

While the seat is new, it has been estimated Labour would have won more than 70 percent of the vote in Stratford and Bow if it had existed at the last general election in 2019, almost five times the party’s nearest rival.

GB News

Fiona Lali told The New Arab she received a lot of support after facing Suella Braverman on GB News television when she claimed the Palestine movement had the potential to topple the government.

Lali was at an encampment at a London university when Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced in late May that the UK was heading to the polls.

“It created a buzz and we were all talking about it. And I made a video, I remember, that I posted online,” she told The New Arab.

“Since then, I got so many comments and then people stopping me and saying like, ‘Would you run?’ and asking me to run.

“I came to the decision that it was necessary and would be a good thing to do to use the platform and to get my ideas out there as much as I could.”

Lali said she was expelled from Labour in 2022 for showing support for Socialist Appeal, the group that later became the RCP.

The New Arab contacted the Labour Party for comment but did not receive a response before publication.

Lali and Khan are both pro-Palestinian, though they are also concerned with other issues.

“What is happening in Gaza is the most extreme example of what those in power would do everywhere and anywhere, including at home,” Lali said.

“It’s a reflection of the horrors of capitalism that are also killing people in Britain.”

Lali supports bringing rail, water, and energy companies into public ownership without compensation for shareholders, while Khan also feels that freedom for Palestinians and British people are linked.

“I understand that, actually, for us to even be able to liberate Palestine, we need to be able to breathe,” Khan said.

“A lot of people are supportive of the cause, but they can’t think about that when their own kids are at risk on these streets.”

Despite these issues being close to the hearts of many Stratford and Bow constituents, the bookies have Labour as the clear favourites to win the seat with Lali in second place.

Electoral potential

Leicester South has also seen multiple candidates run on a Gaza ticket, including independent Shockat Adam and Sharmen Rahman of the Greens, who both hope to overthrow Labour frontbencher Jonathan Ashworth, while the Communist Party of Britain’s Ann Green is also running.

In other areas, there are signs that a coming-together is possible. In Labour Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting’s constituency of Ilford North, the Workers Party has backed Leanne Mohamad, a British-Palestinian activist standing as an independent.

Christopher Kirkland, senior lecturer in politics at York St John University, said that in most seats there is a minimum level of support for the Conservatives and Labour, while parties such as the Liberal Democrats also have some “pretty secure” votes.

Smaller parties and independent candidates running on left-wing tickets face an uphill battle, with centrist Labour far ahead of all competition in national opinion polling. Vote-splitting could further threaten their electoral potential.

“We’re talking about a fraction of the electorate that’s truly up for grabs in any given election,” Kirkland told The New Arab.

“The more candidates you have, the thinner that vote gets stretched.”

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