Labour condemns party source’s ‘racist’ West Midlands comment

Labour has condemned a “racist” comment provided by an unnamed party source to the BBC after it lost support in heavily Muslim areas.

The source told the BBC they believed the West Midlands mayor, Andy Street, was on course to win as a result of the “Middle East not West Midlands” and called Hamas the “real villains”.

The comment, which was swiftly condemned by the Labour party and MPs on Friday, comes as results are expected in the London and West Midlands mayoral elections. Campaigners have warned that the party has lost ground over its stance on Gaza.

“It’s the Middle East not West Midlands that will have won Street the mayoralty, once again Hamas are the real villains,” the source told BBC West Midlands.

On Friday, Labour MPs from Birmingham called the comment “vile racism” and said the individual should be “immediately” thrown out of the party.

“Such anti-Muslim bigotry will only serve to alienate a community that has long supported Labour in its efforts to transform this country for the better,” said Tahir Ali, the Labour MP for Birmingham, Hall Green.

Jess Phillips, the MP for Birmingham Yardley, said: “I’m glad that the Labour party have quickly condemned it. Journalists should I think be clearer [about] the nature of the source because this could just be some complete idiot no-mark with a Labour sticker on.”

Echoing their remarks on Saturday, Ellie Reeves, Labour’s deputy national campaign coordinator, said the language was “unacceptable” and had “racist undertones”.

“I absolutely condemn that comment, it doesn’t represent the Labour party’s view and all the Labour party’s values,” Reeves told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “We’ve been quite clear in saying that this is not a Labour party representative saying these things.”

Closing out the first day of results, the Conservatives had suffered a net loss of 400 seats and lost control of 10 councils. But as Labour celebrated wins in places such as Blackpool, Hartlepool and Thurrock, nervousness remained over upcoming mayoral results after the party lost support among urban and Muslim voters, including losing control of a number of council seats in Oldham council to pro-Palestinian independent candidates.

“If you look at some of the results, we have to be honest and say we have lost some support and we need to gain back trust amongst those Muslim communities,” said Reeves, adding that the party had called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Miran Hassan, director of the Labour Middle East Council, which works on key issues affecting the UK’s relationship with the Middle East and north Africa, said: “In our interconnected world, we cannot overlook the effects that international conflicts have on our communities, nor can we ignore the growing impact of foreign policy on electoral outcomes.”

Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, gave an interview in October in which he said Israel had the right to withhold power and water from Gaza. He later reversed that position but refused to back calls for a ceasefire. Dozens of Labour MPs defied party orders and voted for a Scottish National party motion in the Commons calling for a ceasefire.

The West Midlands mayoralty result is expected at about 3pm on Saturday as Street seeks re-election for a third term, after having ditched references to the Conservative party from his campaign material.

Results of the London mayoral contest and London assembly elections are also due on Saturday as Labour’s Sadiq Khan seeks a third term against the Tory contender, Susan Hall.

A Labour spokesperson said: “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.”

The Guardian