Sir Keir Starmer wrote to Muslim organisations in Batley and Spen today reassuring them of his â€œgratitude and appreciationâ€ for the â€œsteadfast and enduring supportâ€ from the Muslim community, which he says â€œhas been, and always will be, crucial to the Labour partyâ€.
In response to an open letter published last Wednesday from representatives from mosques and Muslim organisations, which stated that their â€œvotes and voices have been taken for grantedâ€ by the party, Starmer acknowledged â€œevery vote must always be earnedâ€.
The letter asked for a direct pledge to tackle the rising tide of Islamophobia, a clear statement on Labourâ€™s position on Palestinian statehood and support for a full arms embargo against Israel in response from continued support for the party.
Starmerâ€™s response stated that the issues were of â€œutmost importanceâ€, pledging to â€œcontinue to do everything in [his] powerâ€ 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 Johnsonâ€™s offensive comments about Muslim women, Starmer wrote:
The prime ministerâ€™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.
Starmerâ€™s letter reiterated his partyâ€™s support for a two-state solution â€œwhere an independent Palestinian state can thrive alongside a safe and secure Israelâ€, underlining that Labourâ€™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 â€œstark and concerningâ€. He went on: â€œI take this incredibly seriously and I will do everything in my power to root out Islamophobia in our party.â€
Amid fears that many disillusioned Muslim voters will switch support from Labour in the byelection, Starmer urged voters to support Kim Leadbeater, the partyâ€™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%.