Labour has seen ‘loss of trust’ among Muslim voters over Gaza – shadow minister

Labour’s shadow justice secretary said there had been a “sense of a loss of trust” in the Muslim community over the party’s stance on the conflict in Gaza.

Shabana Mahmood, a shadow Cabinet minister and one of the most senior Muslim MPs, defended her party’s position as “strong” but acknowledged that trust needed to be “rebuilt” among some British Muslims.

The Labour leadership faced serious criticism from within the party ranks over its initial stance on the conflict, with Sir Keir Starmer criticised for refusing to back an immediate ceasefire in favour of calling for humanitarian pauses.

The party also lost 10 shadow ministers and parliamentary aides over the party’s position, with a significant number of councillors also quitting.

Ms Mahmood told the BBC’s Political Thinking podcast she “wanted a ceasefire then, I want a ceasefire now”.

“It is impossible to look at footage of dead children being pulled from the rubble knowing that they were crying out, nobody could get to them, and not want this nightmare to stop, want the fighting to stop,” she said.

“The death toll I think speaks for itself.”

But she said it was a question of how an end to the fighting is actually delivered, amid “delicate” diplomacy.

She said: “I wish it were possible, simply by calling for it, that you could immediately deliver one.”

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer
Sir Keir Starmer said ‘everyone can see that the conflict in the Middle East has caused great concern across the country’ (PA)

She conceded that there had been nonetheless a “sense of a loss of trust, and I think that that needs to be rebuilt”.

“We aspire to be a party that can get votes from every part of our country and every community in our country. That has always been the Labour way and is still the Labour way,” she said.

Her comments come as Israel bombed targets in Rafah early on Friday, just hours after the US warned Israeli forces against expanding its Gaza ground offensive to the southern city.

More than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million population has been driven by Israel’s military offensive towards the border with Egypt, while the latest figures from the Hamas-run health ministry put the overall Palestinian death toll as close to 28,000.

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy tweeted: “1.4 million displaced Palestinians are in Rafah, with nowhere to go. It’s the gateway for aid to Gaza. An Israeli offensive there would be catastrophic. Far too many civilians have already been killed or wounded.

“The fighting must stop now. We need a sustainable ceasefire.”

A damaged residential building after an Israeli strike in Rafah
A damaged residential building after an Israeli strike in Rafah (Fatima Shbair/AP)

He added: “In the end I think we all want to see the same thing. The terrible terrorist attack on October 7 – 27,000 people now have been killed in Gaza – that’s intolerable, many of them children.

“So we have to get to a ceasefire, a sustainable ceasefire, and that means stopping the fighting, creating the space for humanitarian aid to get in, which is desperately, desperately needed, getting the hostages out and creating the first step of the process, the only way this will be resolved, which is a two-state solution.”

Ms Mahmood in the interview criticised both Hamas and Mr Netanyahu for blocking a two-state solution to the conflict.

“We have to urgently find partners for peace, because a one-state solution does not make the people of Israel safe,” she said.

“And it is an outrage to adopt a position that says that the people of Israel can have self-determination, but the people of Palestine cannot.”

As part of a ceasefire deal Hamas has demanded that Israel release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and end the war. Mr Netanyahu this week refused to agree to those terms.

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