A left-wing Labour MP has slammed Sir Keir Starmer’s attack ads against Rishi Sunak for “playing on racist tropes of Asian men”.
Zarah Sultana said Labour officials “knew exactly what they were doing” when they published a picture of the PM’s face alongside the claim he did not think child sex abusers should go to prison.
The adverts, published on the party’s X account in April, highlighted the number of adults convicted of sexually assaulting children under 16 who did not go to prison.
“Do you think adults convicted of sexually assaulting children should go to prison? Rishi Sunak doesn’t,” the poster said.
In a wide-ranging interview with Novara Media, during which Ms Sultana called Labour “institutionally Islamophobic”, she said “people knew exactly what kind of racist tropes they are playing on”.
She added: “I looked at them and thought, are you talking about my family members? Do you realise how this would be seen within South Asian communities as a whole? Do you care?”
Ms Sultana said she was “personally quite offended” by the poster, and said she has come back to the question “do you care” recently “quite a bit”.
The 30-year-old Corbynite MP claimed Labour whips had told MPs that it did not matter if they lost 7,000 Muslim voters, because they would still win their seats.
And she lashed out at anonymous briefings by party officials in recent months. They included an unnamed strategist who said the party was “haemorrhaging Muslim voters” because of Sir Keir’s work tackling anti-Semitism and another who said the party’s stance on gay rights and Palestine was costing it the conservative Muslim vote, but winning back Tory 2019 supporters.
Ms Sultana said: “I would go as far as calling [Labour] institutionally Islamophobic because these aren’t just my individual experiences and this isn’t just individual experiences of Labour Party members.
“It crosses through with the briefings that come out, the kind of language that is used, the policies that we are willing to say are fine and normal and acceptable.
“And it’s much wider than individual experiences.
“And I think that’s why we have to look at how we can address this if we are really serious about being a party of equality, about looking at how we treat all people fairly… I think we are seriously lacking in that area.”
The controversial attack adverts sparked an uproar in the Labour Party at the time, with shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper distancing herself from the campaign and senior MPs urging the leadership to withdraw the ads.
Ms Sultana’s interview comes after British Muslims and a coalition of mosques condemned Labour MPs who failed to vote for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.
Eight shadow ministers quit over the ceasefire vote on Wednesday and two parliamentary secretaries.
In a blow to Keir Starmer, 56 MPs defied the whip to vote in favour of the SNP amendment in support of a ceasefire.
But more than 50 Labour councillors have resigned over the party’s refusal to call for a ceasefire in the ongoing conflict.