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An Independent, Pro-Gaza Candidate Claims he can Block Keir Starmer’s Election this Thursday

Is there a chance that – despite a Labour landslide on Thursday, Keir Starmer’s own seat is in trouble?

Independent, Andrew Feinstein, pictured in London in May. Photo: Ron Fassbender / Alamy
Independent Andrew Feinstein pictured in London in May 2024. Photo: Ron Fassbender / Alamy

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No party leader has contested an election and gone on to lose their seat since Arthur Henderson in 1931. Yet, with a day to go, an independent candidate believes it’s possible in Holborn and St Pancras.  

On May 21, the former South African MP and anti-Apartheid activist Andrew Feinstein announced he was standing against Labour leader, Keir Starmer, in his North London seat. 

Feinstein, who emigrated to London in 2001 and has lived in the constituency ever since, quickly amassed a formidable campaign machine and a small army of volunteers. The Labour campaign there appears modest in comparison as Starmer has spread his party message across the country in recent weeks.

Labour leader Keir Starmer speaks to journalists after attending a campaign event in Buckinghamshire on July 1. Photo: PA Images / Alamy

Spending just one afternoon with a canvassing team, it was apparent Feinstein has support in the constituency, with a discernible ‘hard’ vote for Feinstein apparent.

In 2019, Starmer won the seat with a majority of 28,000. But while it appears certain he will be the next Prime Minister, locally, some voters think the contest might be much closer.

Feinstein was born in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1964, two years before Nelson Mandela was sent to prison by the Apartheid regime. During his childhood, the country was one of the most unequal, unjust and racist societies in the world, and it was here that Feinstein’s politics were formed.

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As a teenager, Feinstein worked on a boycott campaign against Shell and joined illegal groups banned by the Apartheid state. He went to university in America and Britain and became active in ANC organisations in exile from South Africa. Later he represented the ANC in Johannesburg as the equivalent as a local councillor, then became an MP in Mandela’s first government – the first democratic parliament of South Africa.  

As an ANC MP, Feinstein introduced the first ever Holocaust legislation in South Africa’s parliamentary history, and advised the ANC on economic issues. But his relationship with his party was a febrile one. 

After the euphoria of its early years in office, the ANC quickly became mired in corruption and scandals. Feinstein eventually resigned as an MP in protest against the party refusing to investigate a billion dollar arms deal.

Feinstein now runs a small NGO in London, Shadow World Investigations, has published two books on the arms trade, and has made the war in Gaza a central theme of his campaign.

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Addressing a group of supporters early into his campaign, Feinstein said: “This is not my campaign, this is the community’s campaign.” 

Tramping the streets with boards and chatting to the volunteers who come from all over the capital to support Feinstein, there is some sense of anger against Starmer, who has been criticised for refusing to back calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Starmer’s initial reaction on the war ignited by Hamas on 7 October 2023 offered what appeared to be unconditional support to Israel. He told LBC that Israel had a right to cut off food and water to Gaza (a statement he later drew back from). 

Feinstein has consistently called for a ceasefire and for Israel to be held accountable for what he brands a “apartheid regime”, something that has resonated with some voters.

His campaign also appears to be bringing together a diverse coalition, presenting an alternative to the failed consensus being offered by the two main parties. 

At a recent hustings in Camden, Feinstein outlined his priorities which included the cost of housing in the borough (which he wants to combat through the re-introduction of rent controls); lack of investment in the NHS; cost of living crisis; the climate “catastrophe that faces us all” and Palestine and Gaza.

“It’s extraordinary that our sitting MP, who sent representatives to hustings at the school and the hustings on climate couldn’t be bothered to send a representative to the hustings on Palestine and Gaza. The racism that is incipient in both the Tories and Keir Starmer’s Labour Party that I think affects every aspect of life in this community.”

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Feinstein went on to say the two main parties will continue to offer the “same concoction” – permanent austerity, forever wars, climate degradation, socio-economic suffering – and the only solution is “profound and fundamental change to our economic and political system”.

Writing in openDemocracy on Tuesday, Feinstein asked voters: “Would you rather have austerity delivered by somebody in a red tie or a blue tie? That’s the choice the UK faces at Thursday’s general election.”

He continued: “The fact is that Labour is promising more of the same on every issue this country faces. ‘Growth’ is just a cover for more privatisation of public services, more austerity for working people and more freedom for Labour’s billionaire backers to go on accumulating money as though the vast majority of ordinary citizens don’t matter.”

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Feinstein wrote that he wants to use his experience to “fight for an economy that works for people, not corporations” and promised to “not engage in corrupt deals”.

“Starmer and his Conservative rival for PM, Rishi Sunak, view us all as stepping stones to power and wealth. We deserve politicians who genuinely want to serve their local communities.”

A significant vote for Feinstein on July 4 could be a surprise for Labour on election night – and represent some of the 74% of the British public who want a ceasefire in Gaza. 

Feinstein’s campaign seems like a long shot, but if he’s successful it may be the only blemish on what promises to be a huge night for Starmer.


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