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OPINION - The Standard View: The challenge to Wes Streeting in Ilford North is symptomatic of Labour's problem

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting (PA Archive)
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting (PA Archive)

Across the country, Labour is enjoying 20-point leads in the polls. But in individual constituencies, sitting MPs don’t feel so safe. Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting is perhaps the most high-profile example. The Ilford North MP is facing a challenge from an independent candidate over a single issue: Gaza.

British Palestinian Leanne Mohamad has been selected to stand for the Redbridge Community Action Group, with the hope that Mr Streeting’s relatively small majority (5,218) and a sizeable Muslim population in his constituency will trigger an electoral earthquake. Labour HQ is equally, if not more, concerned about other seats where voters — especially in the Muslim community — are deeply unhappy about the party’s position on the Israel-Hamas war.

Only 60 per cent of British Muslims who backed Labour at the 2019 general election are willing to do so again at the next general election, according to a Survation poll for the Labour Muslim Network.

It may come as a surprise to some that voters in Ilford, as elsewhere, are prepared to put aside every issue facing their local area — from health to education and housing — to root out an MP over his party’s stance on a foreign war. Of course, voters are entitled to cast their ballots for whoever they like and for whatever reason they choose, but a descent into sectarian politics would be highly regrettable and place further strain on communityrelations.

Rochdale is a case in point. Sir Keir Starmer has belatedly withdrawn institutional support from his candidate at the by-election, Azhar Ali, after Mr Ali propagated an absurd and antisemitic conspiracy theory that Israel “deliberately” allowed the October 7 massacre, in which Hamas murdered 1,200 people and took 250 hostage, in order to attack Gaza.

It is distasteful, but such revelations may in fact help Mr Ali face down a challenge from George Galloway. In a multicultural society, foreign conflicts have the power to divide — particularly at election time. Coming back together will be the hard part.

Lizzie line milestone

The Elizabeth line keeps on chugging. More than 300 million journeys have now been made since it opened less than two years ago. The biggest problem now is finding a seat, with Transport for London investigating whether to retro-fit “busyness indicators”, similar to those on Thameslink carriages, to assist passengers.

The line isn’t perfect. There were the original delays and cost overruns, while things still have the capacity to go wrong when using shared tracks. But anyone trying to take the Piccadilly line this week, or the Central line anytime since records began, will appreciate its success.