- The Muslim vote
Clementswood in Redbridge is one of the most strongly Muslim wards in London (31%, according to the 2001 census, a proportion which is likely to have risen since then). It was also, until last night, one of Labourâ€™s safest wards in the Capital, giving Labour a majority of nearly 1,000 in May. Last night, the Liberal Democrats, who came fourth in May, won a by-election there, on a gigantic swing, perhaps indicating that Muslim voters are turning against Labour.
There is no doubt that many Muslim voters, who have traditionally supported Labour, switched against them y over the Iraq war. This was reflected in both local elections, in places with large Muslim populations, such as Luton, Birmingham, and the East End, and in the general election. Butler and Kavanagh found a very clear link between the size of the Muslim population in any one constituency, and the size of the fall in the Labour vote. Usually, the Liberal Democrats were the beneficiaries of this, with the obvious exception of the East End.
This May, there were signs that Muslim voters had forgiven Labour. Labour achieved some very good results in Bradford, and certainly fared less badly in Tower Hamlets, and Newham, against Respect, than they had feared. At least one opinion poll has suggested that Labourâ€™s support has recovered strongly among Muslims. Yet, last nightâ€™s result suggests this may now have been put in jeapordy, following recent rows over the wearing of veils and terrorism.
There were two by elections last night:-
Redbridge LBC â€“ Clementswood: LibDem 904, Labour 715, Conservative 377, Independent 65, Green
Wycombe DC â€“ Greater Hughenden. Conservative 1040, Lib Dem 549. Conservative hold. A solid Conservative win, which is fitting in the ward containing Disraeliâ€™s country house.
Sean Fear is a London Tory