The Tories may have scooped up most of the Leave vote, but they struggled with British Muslim Brexiteers

The Tories may have scooped up most of the Leave vote, but they struggled with British Muslim Brexiteers

The UK has witnessed one of the most stunning general election results in post-war history. With the disintegration of Labour’s traditional ‘red wall’, the Conservatives managed to breach Brexit-voting ‘coal country’ in spectacular fashion – winning seats such as Blyth Valley, Bishop Auckland, Sedgefield, North West Durham, Ashfield, Bassetlaw and Bolsover.

A plethora of national surveys have shown that the Conservative Party successfully managed to ‘unify’ Leavers – ‘cannibalising’ the Brexit Party vote and winning over a notable number of habitual Labour voters. But there was a group of Leave voters where the Conservatives trailed the Labour Party by some distance: British Muslim Brexiteers.

A Savanta/ComRes pre-election poll of 750 British Muslims made for interesting reading. Despite Labour’s muddled position on Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn’s bizarre position of ‘neutrality’, no fewer than 48 per cent of British Muslim voters who voted to leave the European Union in 2016 still intended to vote for the Labour Party. The corresponding the figure for the Conservatives was just 23 per cent – trailing Labour by 25 percentage points.

The figures tell a story of a broader British Muslim population which votes very differently to the mainstream UK electorate – and suggests that Brexit was not as salient an issue among British Muslim Leavers.

My hometown of Luton is split into two constituencies – Luton North and Luton South. The town, which has a high South Asian Muslim population and delivered a Leave vote of 56.5 per cent, stayed true to form by returning two Labour MPs to the Commons – something it has done uninterrupted since Tony Blair’s landslide victory in 1997. In Leave-leaning Birmingham Hodge Hill, Labour incumbent Liam Byrne suffered only a modest drop in his vote share – winning 78.7 per cent of the votes cast on this occasion. In Bradford West – classic working-class British Muslim territory – Labour MP Naz Shah saw an 11.5 percentage-point increase in her voteshare.

While the traditional white British working classes in ‘coal country’ have appeared to desert Labour in their droves, British Muslim Leavers living in inner-city areas and diverse post-industrial towns such as Luton were far more reluctant to do so. While the bonds of Labour Party identification have certainly frayed among white British voters in provincial former coalfield territory, they appear to remain strong among working-class British Muslim voters – including those who voted for Brexit.

There are number of reasons why this is the case. Accusations of the Conservative Party being ‘relaxed’ over ‘Islamophobia’ by Tory Muslim politicians such as Baroness Warsi may well have played a part, while Boris Johnson’s past comparisons between niqab-clad Muslim women and bank robbers are unlikely to have helped matters on this front.

It is also worth noting that there are sensitive geopolitical matters where Corbyn-led Labour was far more likely to be in line with mainstream British Muslim opinion – such as long-standing Indo-Pakistani tensions over Kashmir and the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

While territorial disputes in the Middle East and Indian subcontinent may rank highly in importance in constituencies such as Luton South and Birmingham Hodge Hill, this is far less likely to be the case in seats such as Sedgefield and Bolsover.