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Sir Keir Starmer wrote to Muslim organisations in Batley and Spen today reassuring them of his “gratitude and appreciation” for the “steadfast and enduring support” from the Muslim community, which he says “has been, and always will be, crucial to the Labour party”.

In response to an open letter published last Wednesday from representatives from mosques and Muslim organisations, which stated that their “votes and voices have been taken for granted” by the party, Starmer acknowledged “every vote must always be earned”.

The letter asked for a direct pledge to tackle the rising tide of Islamophobia, a clear statement on Labour’s position on Palestinian statehood and support for a full arms embargo against Israel in response from continued support for the party.

Starmer’s response stated that the issues were of “utmost importance”, pledging to “continue to do everything in [his] power” to demand action from the government on anti-Muslim hate crime, referencing the recently-published report on Islamophobia with the Conservative party.

In reference to Boris Johnson’s offensive comments about Muslim women, Starmer wrote:

The prime minister’s non-apology is frankly offensive in itself; I will continue to call for an unequivocal apology and ask what steps he will take to tackle Islamophobia within his own ranks.

Starmer’s letter reiterated his party’s support for a two-state solution “where an independent Palestinian state can thrive alongside a safe and secure Israel”, underlining that Labour’s policy position had not changed.

In reference to a report from the Labour Muslim Network published last October on Islamophobia within the Labour party, Starmer said the findings were “stark and concerning”. He went on: “I take this incredibly seriously and I will do everything in my power to root out Islamophobia in our party.”

Amid fears that many disillusioned Muslim voters will switch support from Labour in the byelection, Starmer urged voters to support Kim Leadbeater, the party’s candidate. He said:

Kim is the best hope the people of Batley and Spen have for real change – and a vote for anyone other than Kim is sadly a vote that helps the Conservative party win the seat.

A recent poll from Survation showed the Conservatives on course to win the seat at 47%, with Labour six percentage points behind. The poll put George Galloway, whose campaign is focused on ousting Starmer, on 6%.

Keir Starmer with Kim Leadbeater, the Labour candidate in the Batley and Spen byelection, on a visit to the Jo Cox Community Wood in Liversedge. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

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