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Zarah Sultana

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Zarah Sultana
Official portrait, 2019
Member of Parliament
for Coventry South
In office
12 December 2019 – 30 May 2024
Preceded byJim Cunningham
Majority401 (0.9%)
Chairperson of the Socialist Campaign Group
Assumed office
6 May 2020
Preceded byOffice established
Personal details
Born (1993-10-31) 31 October 1993 (age 30)
Birmingham, England
Political partyLabour
Other political
Socialist Campaign Group
Alma materUniversity of Birmingham

Zarah Sultana (born 31 October 1993)[1] is a British politician who is a member of the Labour Party. She has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Coventry South since the 2019 general election. She is on the left-wing of the Labour Party and is chair of the Socialist Campaign Group parliamentary caucus.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Sultana was born in Birmingham on 31 October 1993,[2] to a Muslim family of Pakistani ancestry and was raised with her three sisters in Lozells.[3] Her grandfather migrated from Thub in the Dadyal Tehsil of the Mirpur District of Azad Kashmir to Birmingham, England in the 1960s.[4]

Sultana attended Holte School, a non-selective community school,[5] before studying at the selective King Edward VI Handsworth Grammar School for sixth form.[5] At age 17, she visited Israel and the West Bank, observing a military court trial.[6] She went on to study International Relations and Economics at the University of Birmingham.[7]

Sultana joined the Labour Party in 2011, whilst studying for her A-levels, following the coalition government's decision to treble university tuition fees to £9,000.[8][9] Whilst at university, Sultana was elected to the National Executive Council of both Young Labour and the National Union of Students.[10]

Parliamentary career[edit]

Sultana was listed fifth of seven among the Labour candidates for the 2019 European Parliament elections in the West Midlands constituency, meaning that she would be elected if Labour received enough votes in the region to appoint five MEPs. She was not elected, as Labour won only one MEP in the constituency.[11][12]

In October 2019, she was selected as the Labour candidate for Coventry South,[2] after the incumbent Labour MP Jim Cunningham announced that he would stand down.[13] Her campaign was backed by Unite the Union, Momentum, the Fire Brigades Union, the Communication Workers Union and the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers' Union.[2] However, her selection was opposed by some local Constituency Labour Party (CLP) members, who preferred local candidates; one member would tell Jewish News in 2021 that the CLP was "remarkably moderate" in comparison to Sultana.[14][15] Sultana was elected at the 2019 general election, with a majority of 401 votes.[16]

During the 2019 election campaign, The Jewish Chronicle reported that in 2015, whilst she was a student, Sultana made social media posts from a subsequently deleted account which implied that she would celebrate the deaths of the former Labour prime minister Tony Blair, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former US President George W. Bush and she supported "violent resistance" by Palestinians.[10] As a teenager, Sultana sent tweets telling someone whom she described as pro-Israel to "jump off a cliff" and compared the Holocaust to those who were killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Chechnya. In tweets, Sultana used slang phrases for white people—"YT" and "the white woman"—to describe some Jewish people.[17] Sultana apologised for the posts and stated that she no longer held those views and "wrote them out of frustration rather than any malice".[18][19] The Labour Party re-interviewed her as a consequence of the posts, but she remained the party's candidate.[20] After her election, The Jewish Chronicle reported on a further social media post made by Sultana in 2015, in which she stated that students supporting Zionism were "advocating a racist ideology...and champion[ing] a state created through ethnic cleansing, sustained through occupation, apartheid and war crimes."[21]

In her maiden speech, she decried "40 years of Thatcherism", criticised the effects of austerity, and voiced her support for a Green New Deal to combat climate change.[8][22] She joined the left-wing Socialist Campaign Group shortly after being elected[23] and in the 2020 Labour Party leadership election, nominated Rebecca Long-Bailey for leader and Richard Burgon for deputy leader. Neither was elected.[24][25]

In January 2020, Sultana was appointed as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Dan Carden, the Shadow Secretary of State for International Development.[26] She was removed from this role by Keir Starmer when he became leader in April 2020.[27]

In December 2020, UNICEF announced that it would provide £25,000 to the charity School Food Matters so that vulnerable children and families in Southwark could be supplied with thousands of breakfast boxes over the Christmas school holidays. In parliament Sultana said that it was the first time UNICEF had been required to "feed working-class kids in the UK. But while children go hungry, a wealthy few enjoy obscene riches". She mentioned that Jacob Rees-Mogg is "reportedly in line to receive an £800,000 dividend payout this year". Rees-Mogg criticised UNICEF's action and called it "a political stunt of the lowest order". Sultana then sent Rees-Mogg a copy of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, writing inside "Jacob, it seems this wasn't on Eton's reading list. Merry Christmas, Zarah".[28][29]

In January 2021, Sultana called for prisoners to be prioritised for COVID-19 vaccinations, describing them as "a high risk setting for transmission" and as such, it would be a "humane approach to a completely disenfranchised population".[30]

In April 2021, Sultana was profiled by Marie Le Conte for Vogue magazine, along with her Labour colleagues Charlotte Nichols, Taiwo Owatemi, and Sarah Owen. She spoke about the abuse she receives as a Muslim and as a woman of colour, including death threats and being told to 'go back to her own country'. Sultana was described as "one of the most left-wing new Labour MPs" who had "made a name for herself as an outspoken critic of the Government".[3] In September 2021, Sultana broke down in tears during a debate in Parliament recounting the "Islamophobic hate" she had been subject to since being elected.[31]

In May 2021, alongside celebrities and other public figures, Sultana was a signatory to an open letter from Stylist magazine which called on the government to address what it described as an "epidemic of male violence" by funding an "ongoing, high-profile, expert-informed awareness campaign on men's violence against women and girls".[32]

In October 2021, Sultana joined cross-party MPs including Caroline Lucas and Clive Lewis to launch the Green New Deal Bill in Parliament, "a game-changing plan to stop climate change and build a world in which we can thrive", which she described in a LabourList article as having "social justice at its heart, putting the interests of the many ahead of the greed of the few."[33][34]

On 24 February 2022, following the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Sultana was one of 11 Labour MPs threatened with losing the party whip after they signed a statement by the Stop the War Coalition which questioned the legitimacy of NATO and accused the alliance of "eastward expansion". All 11 MPs subsequently removed their signatures.[35] After receiving a death threat, she criticised what she described as "inaccurate" reports by the media for creating "an active danger to the safety of public figures, and threaten[ing] to narrow our democracy". In a statement to The Guardian she said that she "unequivocally condemned" the actions of the Russian government in Ukraine. She also criticised an anonymous Labour source who described the 11 MPs as a "mouthpiece for the Kremlin", and said that she had complained to party chair Anneliese Dodds about party sources disseminating "dangerous and irresponsible messages".[36][37]

In March 2022, Sultana received an MP of the Year Award from the Patchwork Foundation, celebrating her work championing "underrepresented and disadvantaged communities across the UK."[38] The following year she was nominated for a "Backbencher of the Year" award by the public relations firm Pagefield and shortly afterwards she received a "Coventry Legends Award" by Coventry United Women's Football Club in recognition of her work "as a committed champion of Coventry" and "for being an amazing female role model."[39][40][41]

In October 2022, Sultana was reselected as the Labour Party MP for her constituency, after receiving 90% of the vote from six local branches of the party and support from all participating affiliate organisations.[42]

In December 2022, Sultana introduced a 10 Minute Rule Bill to Parliament that would extend free school meals to all primary school pupils, titled the "Free School Meals for All Bill".[43]

Sultana speaking at a nurses strike, in London, in January 2023

In May 2023, she was ranked 47th on the New Statesman's "left power list", which described her as a "rare" "genuinely viral politician" with the highest number of TikTok followers of any MP, 438,000, along with 273,000 Instagram and 324,000 Twitter followers.[44]

During the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip, she developed a significant media presence commenting on the situation in Gaza and UK arms exports to Israel. During this time she has become the MP receiving the most death threats and online abuse.[6][45]


  1. ^ Brunskill, Ian (19 March 2020). The Times guide to the House of Commons 2019 : The definitive record of Britain's historic 2019 General Election. p. 158. ISBN 978-0-00-839258-1. OCLC 1129682574.
  2. ^ a b c d Rodgers, Sienna (1 November 2019). "Labour organiser Zarah Sultana picked to fight Coventry South". LabourList. Retrieved 19 December 2023.
  3. ^ a b le Conte, Marie (8 April 2021). "New House Rules: Meet The 4 Women MPs Reshaping The Labour Party". Vogue. Retrieved 15 July 2021.
  4. ^ "For the first time ever, British parliament has more female Muslim MPs than male Muslim members | World | thenews.com.pk |".
  5. ^ a b Stretton, Rachel (3 December 2019). "Coventry South election candidate in the spotlight". Coventry Telegraph. Retrieved 15 December 2019.
  6. ^ a b Wintour, Patrick (19 May 2024). "Zarah Sultana: the Labour MP taking on the Tories and her own party, over Gaza". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 May 2024.
  7. ^ "About". Zarah Sultana MP. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  8. ^ a b Segalov, Michael (23 January 2020). "Zarah Sultana MP: 'When I See Conservatives, I Think About All the Harm They've Caused'". Vice. Retrieved 4 February 2020.
  9. ^ Sultana, Zarah (23 January 2020). "'The future is ours – it has to be': MP Zarah Sultana sets out her mission for change". gal-dem. Retrieved 4 February 2020.
  10. ^ a b Harpin, Lee (4 November 2019). "Exclusive: Labour MP hopeful said she would 'celebrate' deaths of Blair, Netanyahu". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 17 January 2020.
  11. ^ "2019 European elections: List of candidates for the West Midlands| BBC News". BBC News. 27 April 2019. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  12. ^ "The UK's European elections 2019". BBC News. Retrieved 16 April 2020.
  13. ^ "Mr Jim Cunningham". Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 17 January 2020.
  14. ^ "Purge of the Corbynites: Four Labour MPs may face reselection battles".
  15. ^ "Labour Candidate Who Wanted To 'Celebrate' Death Of Tony Blair Faces Deselection". 7 November 2019.
  16. ^ "Coventry South". BBC News. Retrieved 17 January 2020.
  17. ^ Doherty, Rosa (15 November 2019). "Labour candidate apologises for saying Zionists 'will not willingly assimilate with Palestinians'". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 18 July 2021.
  18. ^ "Labour Coventry South candidate Zarah Sultana apologises for 'celebrate deaths' post". BBC News. 4 November 2019. Retrieved 17 January 2020.
  19. ^ Bond, Daniel (16 December 2019). "Class of 2019: Meet the new MPs". Politics Home. Retrieved 17 January 2020.
  20. ^ Stretton, Rachel (18 November 2019). "Coventry Labour candidate faces 're-interview' over tweets". Coventry Telegraph. Retrieved 17 January 2020.
  21. ^ Harpin, Lee (24 January 2020). "Labour MP Zarah Sultana told student that 'privilege' allowed them to argue for Middle East peace". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  22. ^ "New Coventry MP Sultana, 26, uses first Commons speech to fire broadside for 'my generation'". Coventry Observer. 16 January 2020. Retrieved 4 February 2020.
  23. ^ @zarahsultana (22 January 2020). "Proud to be in the Socialist Campaign Group meeting today for its official endorsement of @RLong_Bailey for Leader and @RichardBurgon for Deputy Leader. Now let's get these socialists elected! pic.twitter.com/2wndXTOOyU" (Tweet). Retrieved 2 February 2020 – via Twitter.
  24. ^ "Rolling list: MP/MEP nominations for Labour leadership candidates". LabourList. 8 January 2020. Retrieved 17 January 2020.
  25. ^ "Rolling list: MP/MEP nominations for Labour deputy leadership candidates". LabourList. 8 January 2020. Retrieved 17 January 2020.
  26. ^ @zarahsultana (28 January 2020). "I'm excited to join the Shadow International Development team, as @DanCardenMP's Parliamentary Private Secretary! The struggle to build a sustainable world for all – not just the super-rich – is close to my heart. That's the role Britain should be playing on the global stage" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  27. ^ Rodgers, Sienna (9 April 2020). "Shadow ministers appointed as Starmer completes frontbench". LabourList. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
  28. ^ Sleigh, Sophia (18 December 2020). "Rees-Mogg branded 'Scrooge' over controversial Unicef comments". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  29. ^ "MP sends the perfect Christmas gift to Jacob Rees-Mogg after Speaker's warning". The National (Scotland). 19 December 2020. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  30. ^ "'Prisoners should get priority for jabs' – MP – insidetime & insideinformation". 18 January 2021. Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  31. ^ "Coventry MP Zarah Sultana recounts 'Islamophobic hate'". The BBC. 10 September 2021. Retrieved 28 July 2023.
  32. ^ ""We're calling on you to act now": read Stylist's open letter to Priti Patel about ending male violence against women and girls". Stylist. Retrieved 20 May 2021.
  33. ^ "The Green New Deal bill has launched!". Green New Deal Rising. Retrieved 20 October 2021.
  34. ^ Sultana, Zarah (29 October 2021). "'Labour must go bold on the climate with the Green New Deal". LabourList. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  35. ^ Wearmouth, Rachel (24 February 2022). "11 Labour MPs threatened with suspension for signing Stop The War letter attacking NATO". Mirror. Retrieved 24 February 2022.
  36. ^ "Labour MP blames media after death threat over Ukraine statement". The Guardian. 26 February 2022. Retrieved 28 February 2022.
  37. ^ Morris, Sophie (26 February 2022). "Labour MP Zarah Sultana receives death threat describing her as 'Putin's whore'". Sky News. Retrieved 13 April 2022.
  38. ^ Yedroudj, Latifa (22 March 2022). "Zarah Sultana wins an MP of the Year award". CoventryLive. Retrieved 28 July 2023.
  39. ^ "Pagefield Parliamentarian Awards" (PDF). Pagefield. Retrieved 28 July 2023.
  40. ^ Nick, Smith (28 February 2023). "Coventry MP Zarah Sultana up for MP of the Year". CoventryLive. Retrieved 28 July 2023.
  41. ^ Claire, Harrison (28 March 2023). "Zarah Sultana MP given 'Coventry Legends Award'". CoventryLive. Retrieved 28 July 2023.
  42. ^ Knowles, Kate (12 October 2022). "Zarah Sultana "thrilled" at reselection as Coventry South MP". CoventryLive. Retrieved 14 October 2022.
  43. ^ Buchan, Lizzy (9 December 2022). "EXCLUSIVE: All primary pupils in England would get free school meals under MP's law plan". Mirror. Retrieved 28 July 2023.
  44. ^ "The New Statesman's left power list". The New Statesman. 17 May 2023. Archived from the original on 30 May 2023. Retrieved 28 July 2023.
  45. ^ Barker-Singh, Serena (13 March 2024). "A day out with Labour MP Zarah Sultana reveals how she constantly has to think about her safety". Sky News. Retrieved 19 May 2024.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament
for Coventry South