Starmer says he is determined to win back voters who snubbed Labour over Gaza

Sir Keir Starmer has struck a conciliatory tone with voters who have turned away from Labour over its stance on Gaza.

The Labour leader said he was determined to win back the trust of those who had snubbed his party in the local elections as a result of his approach to the ongoing conflict.

While the overall picture for Labour in the local polls was a positive one, it lost a smattering of council seats to independents and to George Galloway’s Workers Party of Britain.

In the tightly-fought contest for the West Midlands mayoralty, Labour won by just 1,508 votes over the Tory incumbent Andy Street.

POLITICS Elections
(PA Graphics)

Labour candidate Richard Parker’s victory over the Conservative incumbent may have been higher had former Labour voters not lent their support to independent Akhmed Yakoob, who stood on a pro-Gaza ticket.

Speaking in Birmingham after the result, the Labour leader said: “I say directly to those who may have voted Labour in the past, but felt on this occasion they couldn’t, that across the West Midlands we are a proud and diverse community.

“I have heard you. I have listened. And I am determined to meet your concerns and to gain your respect and trust again in the future.”

The party failed to regain control of Oxford after a string of prominent defections over its messaging on the Middle East crisis, and in a similar blow, lost control of Oldham Council in Greater Manchester to independents.

Labour also lost council seats to independents in Blackburn with Darwen and Bradford, while the Workers Party of Britain gained from it in Rochdale.

In Manchester, Labour deputy leader of the council Luthfur Rahman lost his seat to Shahbaz Sarwar of Mr Galloway’s Workers Party.

Speaking at the Manchester count, Mr Galloway proclaimed a “Sarwar family victory” and signalled this was related to Gaza.

“It’s a story of a group of people who were faithful to the Palestinian cause from the first to the last,” Mr Galloway said.