LONDON: Muslims voting in the UK polls could have a significant impact in as many as 39 constituencies, a community group said ahead of today’s general election.
Millions of Brits are set to go out to vote on Thursday, with Prime Minster Theresa May and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn the front-runners in a race that has divided the pollsters.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) identified 39 constituencies where votes by the Muslim community may have a high or medium “impact.”
That could be all the more significant considering that some polls have shown the divide between the two main parties narrowing. A poll published by YouGov on Tuesday found that May is on track to win 304 seats in Britain’s Parliament, short of a 326-seat majority. Her party had 330 seats when the election was called in April.
Miqdaad Versi, assistant secretary general of the MCB, said it was impossible to say whether votes by Muslims could actually swing the election.
But he said it could help decide some important seats, including some of the 39 constituencies identified.
“The Muslim community’s votes do really matter,” Versi told Arab News.
“If there is not much of a swing either way, then in these 39 constituencies, the Muslim (voter) turnout might play a very big role.”
Some of these seats could “be an important part of the overall puzzle after the election,” he added.
Historically favoring Labour
Versi pointed out that the Muslim community is not one single “homogenous group,” with different people voting different ways.
“There is no one single Muslim vote. There is no block vote,” he said.
But historically, the majority of UK Muslims have voted for Labour, which is currently the opposition party, Versi added.
“Many Muslims do happen to have very similar views on certain issues,” he said. These issues include concerns over Islamophobia in Britain and demands for the right to wear certain clothing and eat halal food.
“It is very much part of the democratic process for a member of parliament or a parliamentary candidate to consider the views of Muslim communities and of any of their constituents,” Versi said.
He also pointed out that British Muslims share many of the concerns of the wider population, on issues such as health care.
Higher turnout expected
This election has also seen higher political engagement among UK Muslims, Versi said, although he pointed out this was based on anecdotal evidence.
“This election has invigorated many Muslim communities — many want to get involved, many want to participate, many want to canvass and support one of the parties,” he said.
“I would not be surprised if the turnout from the communities in this election is higher than it has been previously.”
Security and the terror threat to Britain has emerged as the key campaign issue in the election, after three deadly terror attacks in the country in as many months.
Versi said that British Muslims were just as concerned over this issue as other members of society.
“Muslim communities care about security like everybody else. It is a core concern. When people ask ‘what should Muslim communities do now?’ one of the things that people are doing is praying that they are not victims of the next terror attack. That’s the reality… all of us are in the same boat,” he said.
“We are strongly encouraging Muslim communities to go out and vote, participate in the democratic process, make sure their voice is heard. Because if there is ever a time for your voice to be heard it is in an election.”