Muslim voters could swing 31 marginal seats, research finds

Harriet Sherwood
Photograph: John Keeble/Getty Images

Muslim voters could affect the outcome in more than 30 marginal constituencies in next month’s general election, according to research published as mosques prepare for a nationwide registration drive.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) released a list on Monday of 31 marginal seats in which Muslim voters could have “high” or “medium” impact.

Top of the list is Kensington in west London, where the Labour candidate, Emma Dent Coad, is defending a majority of 20 against a strong challenge from the Liberal Democrat candidate, Sam Gyimah. Nine per cent of the constituency’s voting age population is Muslim – estimated at 5,431, or 271 times Dent Coad’s majority.

Also on the list of seats where Muslim votes could have high impact is Dudley North, where the former Labour party member Ian Austin, who has a majority of 22, has called on voters to back Boris Johnson; and Richmond Park, where the Conservative Zac Goldsmith is defending a majority of 45. In both constituencies, 4% of the voting age population is Muslim, or more than 70 times the majority of the sitting MP.

Fourteen of the 31 seats are held by Labour, 14 by the Conservatives and three by the SNP. The MCB, the main representative body for Muslims in the UK, is non-partisan.

 

Marginal seats are parliamentary constituencies that have had a history of changing hands between parties, or in which the incumbent MP has a very small majority. Eleven seats were won by fewer than 100 votes in 2017. Often parties will target marginal seats with extra campaigning resources, as they are the places where they feel they are most likely to affect the balance in the House of Commons.

There are several seats, including Kensington, Dudley North, Southampton Itchen and Newcastle-Under-Lyme, where the 2017 margin between the Conservatives or Labour winning the seat was between 20 and 30 votes. The most marginal seat in the country, though, is North East Fife, held by the SNP over the Liberal Democrats by just two votes.

A three-way marginal, where the vote has recently been close between three parties, is much rarer.

 

Among the seats is Finchley and Golders Green, where the Conservative Mike Freer is being challenged by the Lib Dem Luciana Berger, who left the Labour party earlier this year over antisemitism. Much of the focus of candidates’ campaigns has been on the local Jewish population – 20% of the total – but according to the MCB data, 8% of voters are Muslim, translating to 3.5 times Freer’s majority.

Harun Khan, the MCB’s secretary general, said: “As active participants in our society, Muslims – in all their diversity – can play a significant role in what may become a close election, and we hope that the parties listen and reach out to Muslim communities across the country to engage on issues of concern.”

The MCB said it was focusing on increasing Muslim voter participation and encouraging communities to engage with the election debate.

 

There have been trials of voter ID in local elections and the Conservatives have stated that they want to bring in some form of UK-wide ID requirement for voting in the future, but for this election there is no change to the current system.

You do not need to show ID to vote in England, Scotland and Wales in a general election. You don’t even need to bring your polling card. You just need to tell polling staff your name and address. They will then cross your name off the list and give you a ballot paper.

If you’re voting in Northern Ireland, you must show photo ID.

Only the following forms of ID will be accepted at polling stations in Northern Ireland:

  • A UK, Irish or EEA driving licence (photographic part) (provisional accepted).
  • A UK or Irish passport.
  • An Electoral Identity Card.
  • A Translink Senior SmartPass.
  • A Translink 60+ SmartPass.
  • A Translink War Disabled SmartPass.
  • A Translink Blind Person’s SmartPass.

Your photographic identification does not need to be current, so even if it is out of date you can still use it to vote. The presiding officer will have the final say over whether or not the photograph matches that of the person intending to vote. Find out more about voting in Northern Ireland.

Martin Belam

 

On Friday, mosques and Muslim community organisations will take part in the first national Muslim voter registration day.

Zara Mohammed, the MCB’s assistant secretary general, said: “It’s important that we all – young and old – realise our potential to make change through political participation. Our votes matter. Be it the mosque, community organisation, student society or women’s group, each of us can make a difference. This is as true in Ealing as in Edinburgh – we all have a responsibility to encourage as many people to register to vote.”

Mohammed Kozbar, chairman of the Finsbury Park mosque in Jeremy Corbyn’s Islington North constituency, which was attacked by a far-right terrorist in 2017, said: “At my mosque we know the price we all pay when certain communities are excluded from politics. It is high time Muslims make their voices heard – especially as many Muslim communities are in seats where they can be the difference between one candidate or another ending up in parliament.”

Nasir Mahmood of Birmingham Central mosque, one of the largest in the UK, said it was “the civic duty of every citizen – Muslim or not – to exercise their democratic right to vote”. The registration drive was key to “helping Muslims make their voices heard this election”.

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