Will The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict Change The Political Landscape In The UK?

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The Israel/Gaza protest march dividing Britain.

And yet the success of the Labour party was not as impressive as it was predicted. If by 1997, 62% of local deputies were members of this particular party, then this time their success was hindered by the high turnout of independents and representatives of the Green Party.

The Greens received popular support, as Labour initially promised to reduce allocations for climate projects from 28 to 4.7 billion pounds. Climate activists managed to win an additional 74 seats out of 181, because their party is committed to such ideas that resonate with people of a wide variety of ideological views. Today, environmental protection is highly respected and wellsponsored by the state, international organizations and philanthropists. These ideas appeal to Conservative supporters in East Anglia, where the Conservatives wanted to reallow shale gas production, the left likes the party‘s position in defense of the Palestinians, and the Arabs themselves did not stand aside and also supported the Greens. The ideas of the Greens also resonated with the working class of Bristol and Birmingham: they promised to solve problems of a social nature they also received their votes.

Independents won 93 more seats than in previous years. This result can be attributed to the disagreement of the average voter with the position of the main parties on the PalestinianIsraeli conflict. Labour lost votes in a number of Muslim constituencies. The level of tension in the UK regarding the IsraeliPalestinian issue is very high. This is evidenced by the numerous demonstrations that have been taking place throughout the country for several months now. Netanyahu‘s actions do not leave any Arab in the UK indifferent.

Labour leader Starmer initially supported Israel. He stated his position in an interview in October. Allegedly, Israel has the right to withhold water and electricity to civilians in Gaza, to which he was objected by his own party about the unacceptability of collective punishment, especially of the civilian population. A little later, he called on Israel to adhere to international law, but did not call for a ceasefire.

In November 2023, the largest revolt occurred during his leadership of the party, since Muslims make up a fairly significant part of the voters of the Labour (PLP). Then 56 Labour MPs voted for the Scottish National Party (SNP) amendment to the government’s legislative program. The amendment explicitly called for a ceasefire in Gaza. Eight people from the leadership of the PLP themselves resigned or were dismissed by the leader, because in this matter K. Starmer demanded strict internal party discipline. The “revolt” dealt a serious blow to the Labour leader’s attempts to maintain party unity in assessing the war between Israel and Hamas. Thus, the disagreements in the PLP have seriously escalated. Over time, K. Starmer began to advocate not for a “humanitarian pause” as before, but for an immediate cessation of violence and a “long-term ceasefire.” The change of opinion is due to both external and internal factors.

Meanwhile, a coalition of human rights groups (the Palestinian AlHaq and the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN)) filed a lawsuit in the High Court of London to suspend the export of weapons to Israel, but the court refused to consider the claim. Pro-Palestinian groups have filed several similar lawsuits amid an increase in the number of victims in the Gaza Strip.

Protesting against the Starmer‘s position, local government Labour MPs began to leave the party. Moreover, Labour was struck by a major scandal in the byelection in the Rochdale (Manchester) constituency on February 29. It is noteworthy that K. Starmer suspended his party membership and stripped the support of candidate Azhar Ali for his words that Israel allowed Hamas to attack Israel in order to get a pretext for an operation in Gaza. Ali apologized, but the Party has lost.

A convincing victory (40% of the vote) in Rochdale was won by the eccentric G. Galloway, known for his left-wing views, as well as for protesting against the war in Iraq, for which in 2003 Tony Blair expelled him from the Labour Party. This time Galloway stood as a candidate from his own the Workers’ Party of Britain, which he himself founded. After the results were announced, he turned to the Labour leader: Keir Starmer, this is for Gaza. In the local elections, Galloway‘s party elected 4 deputies to the government. Public opinion is split on the PalestinianIsraeli conflict: as of January 2024, 19% of respondents were more inclined to support Israel, 27% of respondents were more sympathetic to the Palestinians, 30% took a neutral position. In March 2024, only 14% of respondents (minus 4% compared to October) and 22% of Labor voters (2019) believed that Starmer was pursuing the right policy on this issue. Support for Israel is declining, amounting to 24% in February (5 percentage points lower since November 2023), and 66% of Britons believe that Israel should be ready to start peace negotiations.

Nevertheless, the PalestinianIsraeli conflict will not affect the prospects of political parties in the upcoming elections. Since the autumn of 2021, Labour has been steadily ahead of the Conservatives in popularity, with the gap hovering around the figure of 20 percentage points. However, no government or political figures, like parties, enjoy the unconditional sympathy of the electorate: their ratings are in the negative zone. Sunak has the most negative indicators (minus 35%) and his party (minus 37%). According to various estimates, in the upcoming elections, Labour may gain a majority of 100-200 seats in Westminster.

An analyst from the UK in a Changing Europe think tank notes that, compared with continental Europeans, 30-40% of British voters are apathetic, consider it pointless to interfere in politics, and negatively assess the political system as a whole. About 32% of voters believe that the deputy does not represent their interests well in parliament, and the majority of respondents are confident that the system needs deep reforms.

The results of the local elections indicate that voters, without placing much hope on the Labour Party, on the principle of anything butwill ensure a serious defeat for the Conservatives in the upcoming general parliamentary elections.

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