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South London is Labour’s new heartland

Keir Starmer visits Albert House in Woolwich, South London. Credit: Getty

July 6, 2024 - 8:00am

With Reform UK making significant headway in white working-class Brexitland and pro-Gaza independents making their mark in areas with notable South Asian Muslim populations, Labour’s so-called “supermajority” is less solid than it looks. But there is one part of the country which has provided steadfast comprehensive electoral support for the party in recent times.

Labour’s most loyal and deepest heartland is now South London, especially in the constituencies with relatively high non-Muslim black populations which do not care for the Right. Rather, they are concerned about bread-and-butter issues such as the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, and are not as emotionally invested in the Gaza crisis.

While Labour nearly lost new Health Secretary Wes Streeting as the MP for Ilford North at the hands of pro-Gaza independent Leanne Mohamed, it had no such struggles in South London. In Lewisham East, which has a black population of 27% according to the 2021 Census, Labour’s Janet Daby was re-elected with 58% of the vote — a majority of over 18,000 votes. In Erith & Thamesmead, where nearly three in 10 voters are black (29%), Daby’s party colleague Abena Oppong-Asare was re-elected with 55% of the vote — a majority of over 16,000. Elsewhere, Labour candidates won the new Vauxhall and Camberwell Green constituency with a majority of over 15,000 votes and in Peckham by a similar margin.

While Labour’s support among Sunni Muslims in Britain’s Pakistani-origin and Bangladeshi-heritage areas has dropped sharply, largely because of Keir Starmer’s positioning on Israel-Gaza, black Britons — who are heavily concentrated in the capital’s southern boroughs — represent Labour’s most devoted voters. An ethnic-minority pre-election survey by YouGov found that nearly three in four black voters intended to vote Labour (72%) compared to just 44% of the merged Pakistani-Bangladeshi category.

If these high levels of support for Labour were replicated in Birmingham Ladywood — where one in four voters are black — it is plausible that black voters (especially Caribbean non-Muslims) helped Labour incumbent and now-Justice Secretary Shabana Mahmood stave off the fierce challenge posed by another pro-Gaza independent candidate, Akhmed Yakoob.

In the UK’s increasingly volatile and unpredictable electoral marketplace, it is now Labour’s black female MPs in South London who are sitting on hefty majorities and representing some of the party’s most faithful voters.

Particularly after the scandal involving Diane Abbott’s candidature in the build-up to the general election, it is more than likely that Starmer specifically consults with this group of MPs as he presses ahead with his plans to introduce a new Race Equality Act and carry out his social policy agenda for modern Britain. The 2024 intake of Labour MPs is markedly different from 2019 — and it will be interesting to see how much power they wield in a Starmer government.


Dr Rakib Ehsan is a researcher specialising in British ethnic minority socio-political attitudes, with a particular focus on the effects of social integration and intergroup relations.

 

rakibehsan

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Rob N
Rob N
6 days ago

“plans to introduce a new Race Equality Act”

Words to strike terror into any decent British person.

David Graham
David Graham
6 days ago

A new order of ‘Peace and stability’ or ‘Racism in our time’?

Josef Švejk
Josef Švejk
6 days ago

It was always the hope when migration occurred from South Asia that subsequent generations would accept “Britishness”. Unfortunately this has not happened. The causes are many and not due solely to the concept of Britishness nor that of the migrant population. It is what it is. This is a timely warning for the Labour Party.

j watson
j watson
6 days ago
Reply to  Josef Švejk

What a load of tosh. Go and watch our Football, Cricket and Rugby teams. maybe watch the Olympics and see the diversity of our teams. You’ll see alot of our flags too.
Our younger may not accept a tired, one dimensional view of our history and good on the them for that.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
6 days ago
Reply to  j watson

Having ‘diverse’ national sports teams in no way disproves that there is a significant number of people who have a far greater allegiance to their religion and country of origin or heritage than they do to the UK. The fact that we now have MPs who appear to represent Gaza rather than their own constituencies attests to that.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
6 days ago
Reply to  j watson

Not many south Asians in the football or rugby teams. Maybe more in cricket. What flags do you see when England play Pakistan or India?

To suggest the South Asian community is fully integrated is rather to ignore the number of seats won on the Gaza question alone.

How big a problem it is I don’t know but suggesting it’s non existent is just not factually accurate.