Five UK pro-Palestine independents elected as MPs in 'historic moment'

Five UK pro-Palestine independents elected as MPs in 'historic moment'
Former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was among five pro-Palestinian independents elected when UK voters went to the polls on Thursday.
5 min read
05 July, 2024
Jeremy Corbyn is the best known of the pro-Palestinian independents elected in the UK [Guy Smallman/Getty]

Five pro-Palestinian independents won seats at the UK general election on Thursday in a "historic moment" that blew expectations out the water.

In a significant loss for the Labour Party as it enters government, frontbencher Jonathan Ashworth was dethroned by optometrist Shockat Adam in a close battle for the Leicester South constituency.

The independents' victories follow anger, particularly in the Muslim community, over Labour's handling of Israel's war on Gaza.

"We as a city have done this. We as a city are a shining example to the rest of the world, that it is [the] people that matter, not the people that rule over us," Adam said in a speech after winning his seat by under 1,000 votes.

"A voice for the voiceless. It's very small. It brings nothing to those across the world, and it's a humble token, a humble gesture."

"This is for the people of Gaza," he said, lifting a traditional Palestinian scarf called a keffiyeh.


In the London seat of Islington North, independent Jeremy Corbyn fended off a challenge from Labour, the party he led from 2015 to 2020.

Corbyn will remain the MP for the area, which he has represented since 1983, after securing 24,120 votes, over 7,000 more than Labour candidate Praful Nargund's 16,873.

"Tonight, our community made history," Corbyn said in a statement, adding that the result in his constituency "gives us a glimpse of a different future".

"This election was never about me. It has always been about our community and the values we share," he said.

"And it's about our undying belief that there is an alternative to inequality, poverty and war."

Ayoub Khan defeated his Labour opponent in Birmingham Perry Barr, as did Adnan Hussain in Blackburn – both in close races that overturned large majorities.

In Dewsbury and Batley, a new constituency that had a theoretical Labour majority, independent Iqbal Mohamed emerged victorious.

He received 15,641 votes, almost 7,000 more than Labour's Heather Iqbal.

"With only a few weeks to react to a snap election, activists and candidates were able to cause major upsets," Shamiul Joarder, head of public affairs at pro-Palestinian group Friends of Al-Aqsa, said in a press release.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign director Ben Jamal said Palestine had "definitely been on the ballot".

'Historic moment'

The Muslim Vote, a campaign group which supported pro-Palestinian candidates not standing under the Labour or Conservative banners, had endorsed all five of the new independent MPs.

"This is a historic moment," Muslim Vote coordinator Abubakr Nanabawa told The New Arab.

"These are candidates who have come around to send… a loud message to the Labour Party that they cannot continue to take the voices and the votes of [the] Muslim community for [granted]."

Nanabawa said he had expected perhaps two independents, one of them Corbyn, to win when the exit poll was released after voting closed at 10pm (9pm GMT) on Thursday.

"To sit here at the end of the day and to have five is real proof that the Labour Party no longer can walk around and pretend to represent people who they don't," he added.

Some independents and candidates representing smaller parties failed to win seats but pushed Labour close to the line.

Independent Leanne Mohamad, a British-Palestinian activist, was beaten by senior Labour figure Wes Streeting by just 528 votes in London's Ilford North.

Labour's Jess Philips narrowly avoided being deposed in Birmingham Yardley, where Jody McIntyre of the leftist Workers Party of Britain came within 700 votes of victory.

"It's now time that the Labour Party really does reflect and start taking the opinions of Muslim communities and Muslim individuals very seriously," Nanabawa said.

Though his party lost to independents in five constituencies, Labour leader Keir Starmer has become the UK's new prime minister.

Labour secured a landslide victory on Thursday, winning more than 410 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons – a majority of over 170 in the country's lower chamber.

In Starmer's constituency of Holborn and St Pancras, there was a noteworthy challenge from pro-Palestinian independent Andrew Feinstein, a former South African MP under Nelson Mandela.

Starmer came in a strong 11,572 votes ahead of second-place Feinstein, though this represents a drop of over 11,000 on the majority it is estimated Labour would have received at the 2019 election using current constituency boundaries.

Israel's war on Gaza

Both Labour and the UK's former Conservative government have faced criticism over their handling of Israel's war on Gaza.

Opinion polling carried out ahead of Thursday's vote suggested Palestine was an important issue for many Muslims and young people.

Muslims make up at least 30 percent of the adult population of four of the five constituencies that elected pro-Palestinian independent MPs, according to 2021 census data analysed by The New Arab.

Live Story

The overall adult population of England, where all five seats are located, is around 5.5 percent Muslim.

While Labour now supports an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza war, it failed to do so in a November vote in parliament.

Starmer prompted outrage after appearing to say early in the war that Israel had the right to withhold power and water from the Palestinian enclave.

He later said that he meant Israel had the right to self-defence, not to cut off supplies.

Israel's war on Gaza has so far killed at least 38,011 people, according to the strip's health ministry.

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