Labour leader Keir Starmer has pledged to tackle Islamophobia and press for a fair solution to the Palestine issue ahead of the Batley and Spen by-election next week.
In a response to an open letter by several local Muslim organisations who said they had serious doubts over supporting Labour, Starmer said the party would not take their votes for granted.
The letter comes after a recent poll put the Conservatives six points ahead in the traditionally Labour parliamentary seat.
Here is the letter from Keir Starmer in full:
Thank you for your letter received on 16th June. Thank you for reaching out and your candour in doing so. It is incredibly important to me, and the Labour Party, to hear your thoughts and concerns and ensure that there is direct and open communication between us.
I would like to begin with expressing my gratitude and appreciation to the Muslim community in Batley and Spen, and across the UK. Your steadfast and enduring support has been, and always will be, crucial to the Labour Party. And I am clear that we cannot take the support of any community for granted – every vote must always be earned.
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I want to continue to reiterate my commitment to ensuring that the Muslim community have a political home in the Labour Party. Labour has strived to build strong connections with vital stakeholders to ensure that the interests of the community are respected and visible. In my recent visit to Batley and Spen, I met with local leaders with whom I discussed key local and international issues, alongside internal Party matters.
I have met with the Muslim Council of Britain, and I continue to have a good relationship with them. I also attended a number of Iftar events during Ramadan to engage with the Muslim community and pass on my support after what has been a very difficult year. I was pleased as I do every year to attend the APPG for British Muslims virtual Big Iftar, where I paid tribute to the huge contribution made by British Muslim communities throughout the pandemic. I also had the privilege of visiting a mosque in London in-person alongside the Labour Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.
I am in no doubt that Kim Leadbeater is the best candidate to represent your interests and to raise your concerns in Parliament. Kim understands the challenges you face and is fighting to see real, tangible change. Most importantly, Kim is a longstanding and outspoken advocate for the diversity of Batley and Spen and knows that its people and community deserve better.
As a lifelong local resident, she has a track record of campaigning and delivering locally and nationally, working with politicians at every level and from across all parties. 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.
I hope and urge you to support Kim in this election, and hope that the Labour Party can continue to rely on your vote.
You highlighted some other vital issues and I want to give you my reassurance that they are of the utmost importance to me, my shadow cabinet, and the Party as a whole.
The rise of Islamophobia in recent years is abhorrent to all of us. I will continue to do everything in my power not only to call it out but to continue to press and demand for real action from the government.
As a former Director of Public Prosecutions, I have personally fought for strong legal action against hate crime and Islamophobia. This month, I wrote to the Prime Minister – as did my Shadow Women and Equalities Minister and Labour’s Party Chair – following the release of the Singh report which highlighted the Prime Minister’s own offensive remarks especially towards Muslim women. 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.
As for the Labour Party, the findings of the Labour Muslim Network (LMN) report are stark and concerning. I take this incredibly seriously and I will do everything in my power to root out Islamophobia in our Party. I have met with LMN since their report and am due to meet with them again soon. I have given LMN my commitment to work with them to implement the recommendations from the report. I remain committed to ensuring we have a code of conduct and a comprehensive training programme on Islamophobia.
The Labour Party’s policy position on the ongoing conflict in Palestine and Israel has not changed – we support a two-state solution where an independent Palestinian state can thrive alongside a safe and secure Israel.
I believe strongly in the importance of and adherence to international law and human rights. The continued violations of international law, forced evictions, and expansions of settlements are unacceptable and of huge concern. There must be an end to the forced evictions in Sheikh Jarrah and an immediate halt to all new settlements. International partners must work together to ensure humanitarian access and resources into all parts of Palestine, which already faced a tragic and desperate humanitarian situation before this latest round of violence.
During Prime Minister’s Questions, I called on the Prime Minister to use the recent G7 meeting as an opportunity to press for renewed international engagement; and to find a path with a meaningful peace process back up and running. The absence of this is making the prospect of a viable, sovereign Palestine all the harder to achieve.
The Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lisa Nandy MP and I, have met with both Palestinian and Israeli leaders and have unequivocally called for peace and justice and for the importance of international law and human rights at the heart of the peace talks.
The stakes are too high, and Britain and its international partners must urgently push for lasting peace in the region.
Once again, I express my thanks for your letter.
The Labour Party is committed to a strong relationship with all communities, including the Muslim community. Labour is committed to building a better, fairer more secure future for all and will continue to stand up for the rights of Muslim communities in Batley and Spen, across Britain and the world.
Keir Starmer MP
Leader of the Labour Party