Sunday 7 July 2024


Gaza, a low turnout and Jeremy Corbyn give Starmer a headache

In the early hours of Thursday the newly re-elected member for Holborn and St Pancras stood up at the podium to deliver his victory speech.  He appeared strangely subdued, downbeat even, considering he had just held his seat for the third successive election.  Keir Starmer knew what was happening around the country and he was acutely aware of what had just transpired in his own constituency.

When the exit poll landed at 22:00 hours, Starmer and his party would have surely been delighted.  Then the first results started to trickle in and as the night wore on it became clear that Labour were winning with fewer votes.  The long anticipated landslide was happening not so much on Labour's merit, as it was the Tory vote was crumbling harder.  There were also a series of other factors in Labour's poor return and Starmer's seat was a prime example.

Holborn and St Pancras was created in 1983 and has been red ever since.  New Labour's Frank Dobson held the seat up to 2010, before Starmer replaced him at the 2015 election.  Starmer's majority in 2017, at 30,509, was the highest ever Labour majority in this seat.  It fell slightly in 2019 to 27,763, but in 2024 - the year of the Labour landslide - it crashed.

In 2019 Starmer scored an impressive 64.5 per cent vote share with 36,641 votes.  On Thursday he received just 18,884 votes and 48.9 per cent.  This came about despite the collapse in the Tory vote.  They finished second in 2019, but dropped to fourth behind an independent and the Greens.  The independent candidate (and a reduced turnout) was key to Starmer's disappearing vote.

The independent candidate, who surged straight into second place on Thursday, was one of dozens of Gaza enthusiasts who took on Labour in cities and Muslim-dominated mill towns up and down the country.  Don't let his Jewish surname fool you, Feinstein is a former member of the communist ANC in his native South Africa.  He moved to London in 2001 and joined Labour under Corbyn's leadership.  He resigned in protest at Starmer's direction and stood against him primarily on a Gaza/Palestine platform.

If the Palestine issue is still live come the next election, Labour could be in real trouble in their heartlands - and that includes Starmer himself in Holborn.  Gaza independents hammered Labour's vote in the big cities and northern mill towns, taking seats from Labour in Leicester (bye Jon Ashworth), Birmingham (cheerio Khalid Mahmood), Blackburn and Dewsbury.  Labour's rising star Wes Streeting scraped to victory over another Gaza independent by a wafer thin majority of 528.  Other Gaza enthusiasts such as George Galloway's Workers Party of Britain also damaged Labour's vote in key areas.

Starmer had good reason to be subdued and reticent in his celebration of Labour's landslide victory.  Questions remain over the fairness of a democracy in which Reform UK received more votes and a larger share than the Lib Dems, but ended up with five seats compared to 72 Lib Dems.  On a more personal note for Starmer, he will also be well aware that his Labour garnered less votes at this election than Corbyn's Labour received at both 2017 and 2019.  And worse still, Corbyn will be back in Westminster to haunt his successor for the next five years...

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