Skip to main content

UK: Anti-apartheid campaigner Andrew Feinstein set to challenge Starmer in upcoming elections

The former Nelson Mandela advisor is among a wave of independents seeking to unseat Labour candidates who failed to vote for a ceasefire in Gaza
Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer delivers a speech during the 'Labour and Civil Society Summit' in London, 22 January 2024 (Reuters)

A former South African MP and advisor to Nelson Mandela is preparing to stand against Labour leader Keir Starmer as an independent candidate in the 2024 general election.

Andrew Feinstein, who was elected by the Organise Corbyn-Inspired Socialist Alliance (OCISA), a group launched in February 2023 with the aim of ousting Starmer, has received endorsements to contest the Labour leader’s Holborn and St Pancras constituency.

Feinstein told Middle East Eye that he has not formally declared his candidacy, but will do so after a process of engagement with communities and groups in the constituency. 

He added that he has received support from two broad-based community grassroots organisations.

"Westminster politics has become little more than a cynical establishment stitch-up. A choice between two pro-genocide leaders intent on destroying everything from the NHS to the climate in order to serve their vested interests," he told MEE.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


He added: "[Starmer] has turned Labour into an even more callous and reckless version of Sunak's Tories in a desperate bid for power at any cost."

Feinstein said that he would challenge Starmer to a debate "at every opportunity," but added that Starmer would be evading it on the basis that he is running a national campaign.

In 2015, Starmer won his seat with a relatively small majority. According to Feinstein, Starmer's 70 percent majority in the 2017 election was "purely a result of Corbyn's leadership of the Labour Party".

His majority currently stands at a very comfortable 27,763, or 64.5 percent of the vote, in the last 2019 election.

"Both [the 2017 and 2019] elections, he fought it on a platform of anti-austerity, on a platform of socialism," Feinstein told MEE. "In effect, he has been elected, both as an MP and as leader of the Labour Party, on entirely false pretences."

Feinstein has been under investigation by the Labour Party since November 2021, after he described Israel as "a brutal, rogue, apartheid state just like my home, South Africa, was.”

Feinstein is the son of a Holocaust survivor and has lectured on genocide prevention at Auschwitz.

A new wave of challengers

Feinstein is among a new wave of independent candidates running against Labour MPs who failed to vote for a ceasefire in a parliamentary vote in November.

A British Palestinian, Leanne Mohamad, is set to challenge Labour shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, for his seat in Redbridge, which has a Muslim population of 31.3 percent.

George Galloway, leader of the Workers Party of Britain, is running on a pro-Palestine platform for the 2024 Rochdale by-election later this month.

In January, Mohammed Akunjee announced that he would stand against Rushanara Ali in Bethnal Green and Stepney, east London, over her refusal to vote for a ceasefire.

Some of the candidates are backed by a new grassroots network, The Muslim Vote, which is supporting independent candidates to run in the upcoming elections against MPs in constituencies which have a significant Muslim electorate.

Meanwhile, Labour has faced criticism for continuing to back its candidate in the upcoming Rochdale by-election, Ali Azhar, after he suggested that Israel “allowed” the Hamas-led attack on 7 October.

In a recording obtained by the Mail on Sunday, Azhar reportedly said “They deliberately took the security off, they allowed … that massacre that gives them the green light to do whatever they bloody want.”

Ali later issued an apology, saying that "Hamas's horrific terror attack was the responsibility of Hamas alone."

Commentators online have highlighted the discrepancy between Labour's continued support of Azhar and the party's handling of left-wing MPs for alleged antisemitism.

"Kate Osamor was booted for describing Gaza as a genocide, the day the ICJ put Israel on trial for genocide. Andy McDonald was booted for calling for peaceful coexistence between the river and the sea. Azhar Ali said something genuinely scandalous, and Labour is standing by him," wrote Owen Jones.

The 'pro-genocide party'

New polling has revealed a plunge in support for Labour among British Muslims as a result of its stance on Israel’s war on Gaza. 

According to polling commissioned by the Labour Muslim Network (LMN), 60 percent of Muslims surveyed nationally would vote for Labour, down from 86 percent in 2021.

“These findings come in the context of over 100 days of Israel’s continuous assault on Gaza…the Labour Party’s response has been unacceptable and deeply offensive to Muslims across Britain," said LMN in a statement.

The Labour leadership’s repeated refusal to call for a permanent ceasefire has prompted around 100 councillor resignations since October.

'Labour is 30,000 dead Gazans too late': Muslim campaign aims to disrupt UK politics
Read More »

In an interview with LBC last year, Starmer defended Israel’s “right” to cut water and power supplies to Gaza after the Hamas-led assault on southern Israel on 7 October.

While the Labour leader has rowed back on his comments, he later instructed Labour MPs not to vote for a ceasefire in parliament, banned Labour party branches from discussing the conflict, and "strongly advised" elected representatives not to attend pro-Palestine demonstrations, according to eight Labour councillors in Oxford.

In January, Starmer officially dropped the Labour Party’s promise to recognise Palestine as a state unilaterally, and will now only do so as a result of a two-state solution with Israel.

"Labour has positioned itself as the pro-genocide party," Feinstein told MEE. "It is completely indistinguishable from the Conservatives and the US administration."

Shortly after the announcement of Feinstein’s candidacy, Starmer issued a statement on X warning of the “catastrophic” consequences of an Israeli offensive on Rafah and calling for a “sustainable ceasefire”.

In response, Feinstein tweeted, “How about calling for an end to arms sales from the UK to Israel? Why haven’t you commented on the findings of the ICJ which ruled that it is plausible Israel is committing genocide? Why have u done nothing to try & stop the slaughter of almost 30,000 people since October?”

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.