“It’s unacceptable to taint a whole community in this way – loyal Labour supporters vilified as bigots.”Nadia Jama, Labour NEC.
Our victory in Batley & Spen resulted in a euphoric response from Keir declaring that Labour is coming home. It was the most dynamic we have seen from him in the last 15 months, with lots of pictures of him air-punching to victory and a smile from ear-to-ear.
The result was a relief; the campaign had taken a divisive and nasty turn. The number of Labour activists that became involved really shone through in the last few weeks, in stark contrast to the Hartlepool by-election – the images of Kim being harassed in the street led to many going out to ensure she was supported, and rightly so.
We must also acknowledge that the lack of a Green candidate helped our cause, and the toxicity of Galloway was enough to corral people out to vote during the final day. So, we can’t be complacent – a majority of 323 votes leaves us on very shaky ground come the next General Election. Kim as the only local candidate now has the opportunity to bring the whole of the constituency together and heal the relationship with all voters, but in particular our Muslim voters and members.
Unfortunately throughout the Batley & Spen campaign we saw some awful examples of islamophobia inside and outside of the Party. A recent New Statesman article groundlessly accused older Muslims of being homophobic and anti-feminist, along with an alleged “Labour source” who claimed that the party had built a new coalition and lost the ‘conservative’ Muslim vote. It’s unacceptable to taint a whole community in this way – loyal Labour supporters vilified as bigots. Keir must tackle this narrative head on – I’m assured the party are investigating the ‘Labour source’ and will deal with them once the investigation concludes. Myself and my other NEC left CLP comrades will definitely be keeping focus on this.
Keir must work to rebuild the trust of our Muslim members and voters, which under his leadership has begun to decline. The Labour Muslim Network Report into Islamophobia must become a priority for his team now – we’ve seen little traction on this thus far. We must not become complacent and assume Muslim voters have nowhere else to go.
Keir must also ensure that when we talk about our traditional working class vote, we don’t lean into the dog whistle racism, which seeks to divide us. Labour’s vote has always been diverse and vibrant. The far-right candidate in Batley & Spen proved this, losing her election deposit only gaining 50 votes. We must not be drawn into a culture war, which the Tories and press try to conjure up constantly.
I’m told Keir wants to rebuild relationships within the party and on the NEC to bring an end to the factionalism on all sides. My response to this is clear: if he stuck to his 10 pledges we’d all be in a sweet spot now.
If Keir really does want to start with a new blank canvass, then he must stop the attacks on left members, he must reaffirm his commitment to his 10 pledges and build on the popular 2017 & 2019 manifestoes, updating them for the crises we face as a country and, last but not least, he must restore the whip to Jeremy Corbyn, then the left will believe his intentions to start afresh are real – so in Keir’s own words, I say “in that spirit lets go forward, together and show that Labour can create a fairer future for everyone” through socialism.
Nadia Jama is a Members’ Representative on Labour’s National Executive Committee.