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LONDON: A senior Labour official has suggested the party’s stance on Gaza might have affected its performance in local elections in the UK.

A series of votes took place this week nationwide to elect new mayors in multiple major cities, as well as council members and police and crime commissioners.

Labour was expected to perform strongly, but Pat McFadden, Labour’s national campaign coordinator, told Sky News that Gaza had been “a factor in some places,” adding that with “so many innocent people being killed I’m not surprised people have strong feelings about that.”

Party sources suggested turnout in key areas was lower than anticipated, with many Muslim voters choosing not to vote, including in one key election in the West Midlands where lack of support saw Labour lose the local mayoralty to the Conservative incumbent Andy Street.

It comes weeks after former Labour MP George Galloway was elected to represent the formerly safe Labour constituency of Rochdale in Parliament, with Israel’s ongoing war in Gaza a key theme of the campaign.

Galloway has since said his Workers Party of Britain will seek to stand candidates in every constituency at the next UK general election.

An anonymous Labour source in the West Midlands told The Times: “We (would) have beaten him (Andy Street) as a general rule, but the Muslim vote has collapsed to the Galloway-backed independent.”

Another source quoted by the BBC caused controversy and was accused of racism by Conservative sources for saying: “It’s the Middle East, not West Midlands, that will have won Andy Street the mayoralty. Once again Hamas are the real villains.”

In a statement, Labour told ITV: “The Labour Party has strongly condemned this racist quote which has not come from anyone who is speaking on behalf of the party or whose values are welcome in the party.”

Labour lost its 13-year spell controlling the local council in Oldham, having seen its majority reduced in recent weeks ahead of the elections following defections by councilors opposed to Labour leader Keir Starmer’s stance on Gaza.

However, Arooj Shah, Labour’s council chief in Oldham, disputed that Gaza was the main issue, telling The Independent: “I don’t think that’s a fair statement to make, given that the issue of Gaza has been over the last year, but what we’ve seen in Oldham is a lot longer than that. We have had 13 years of austerity and that’s been really, really difficult.”

Elsewhere, Green Party candidates also claimed former Labour seats in Newcastle and Bolton.

Nick Peel, Labour’s council leader for Bolton, told The Independent: “As a direct result of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Palestine, many South Asian voters have not supported Labour or Conservative.”

Chris Hopkins, political research director for market research company Savanta, told The Independent that Labour could lose more council seats in areas with significant Muslim populations, such as Bradford and Burnley, over the Gaza issue as results continued to be announced.

Leading pollster Prof. John Curtice told the paper that “Labour has actually done quite badly” in areas of the country with large Muslim communities, and warned that the trend could harm the party ahead of the next general election.

Starmer told the BBC: “I’m concerned wherever we lose votes and we intend to win back any votes we have lost.

“But there’s no denying that across the country, whether it’s Hartlepool in the north or Rushmoor in the south, or Redditch, a bellwether seat, we are winning votes across the country. And that, I think, reflects a changed Labour Party with a positive case to take to the country.”

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