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Labour loses three seats to pro-Palestinian candidates

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jonathan Ashworth

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jonathan Ashworth among those losing out as party suffers in urban areas with high Muslim populations

Labour has lost three seats to pro-Gaza independent candidates and been run close by several others, as the impact of the Middle East crisis dented an otherwise jubilant night for Keir Starmer’s party.

Jonathan Ashworth, the party’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, was one of the highest-profile political casualties of the surge in support for pro-Palestinian candidates in urban areas with high Muslim populations.

Ashworth lost his Leicester South seat to the independent Shockat Adam, who declared: “This is for Gaza,” after winning by just under 1,000 votes.

In Blackburn, the constituency once held by the former home secretary Jack Straw, Labour’s Kate Hollern lost by under 200 votes to the independent Adnan Hussain. And in Dewsbury and Batley, Heather Iqbal, a former adviser to the shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, lost by nearly 7,000 votes to Iqbal Mohamed.

In several other seats, high-profile Labour MPs were also run close by independent candidates, including in Ilford, where the shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, won by only 528 votes more than his closest rival, Leanne Mohamad.

In Birmingham Hodge Hill, the former cabinet minister Liam Byrne won by just over 1,500 votes over James Giles, the candidate for George Galloway’s Workers party of Britain.

Rushanara Ali also won by just over 1,500 votes in Bethnal Green and Bow, where many in the Bangladeshi community were also angered by the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, talking about deporting Bangladeshi people whose asylum claims had been refused.

Shabana Mahmood, the shadow justice secretary, won in Birmingham Ladywood, another area with a high proportion of Muslim voters, beating the independent Akhmed Yakoob by about 3,500 votes.

But in a sign that the gains by pro-Palestinian candidates were not uniform, George Galloway lost his Rochdale seat to the Labour candidate Paul Waugh. Galloway won the seat at a byelection earlier this year after a controversial campaign during which Labour withdrew its support from its candidate Azhar Ali over comments he made about Israel.

Labour officials had warned throughout the campaign that many of their candidates were under pressure from pro-Palestinian candidates across the country. Party strategists had expected most voters who deserted them over the issue at the local elections to return at the general election, but appeared to have overestimated how many would do so.

Starmer came in for heavy criticism from many campaigners for comments early in the conflict in which he said Israel had the right to withhold power and water from civilians in Gaza. That anger was compounded when the party refused to back a Scottish National party motion calling for an immediate ceasefire in the region – even though Labour passed its own similar motion soon afterwards.

In some seats the contest became bitter, with Labour canvassers saying they were being harassed by their opponents.

In Ali’s seat, Labour campaigners were followed down the street while handing out leaflets, while in Birmingham party supporters had to call the police twice during the final weekend of campaigning.