Second group of Labour councillors revolt over Keir Starmer's Israel policy

More than a dozen councillors have resigned from the party within the last week in protest


MARSTON MORETAINE, BEDFORDSHIRE - OCTOBER 20: Labour Party leader Keir Starmer speaks to media after congratulating newly elected Labour MP for Mid Bedfordshire Alistair Strathern on October 20, 2023 in Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire. Labour candidate Alistair Strathern overturns Tory majority to win the seat vacated by former Conservative culture secretary Nadine Dorries. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Sir Keir Starmer is facing a growing rebellion over his pro-Israel stance after more than a dozen Labour councillors resigned from the party. 

The Labour leader said in an interview that "Israel had the right" to withhold water and power from Gaza following the Hamas terrorist attack on the Jewish state.

The remarks, made on LBC Radio earlier this month, have prompted 13 councillor resignations in local authorities across England in the last week. 

These include four in Oxford and one each in Haringey, Hounslow, Islington, Kensington, Newham, Nottingham, Cambridge, Stroud and Gedling.

It follows Amna Abdullatif, a Manchester city councillor representing the district of Ardwick, quitting alongside Shaista Aziz and Amar Latif, of Oxford city council and Usman Bhaimia in Gloucester.

Lara Parizotto, who represents Brentford West on Hounslow council, said the Labour Party was no “longer aligned with her values”.

Mairéad Healy, who represents the ward of Romsey on Cambridge City Council said comments “encouraging collective punishment towards the Palestinian people” were the final straw of her quitting the party.

She added: “I believe politicians have a responsibility to act with humanity and decency.

"Since the comments made [by Sir Keir Starmer] have not been revoked in recent days, I believe it is untenable to remain in a party which espouses such callousness."

Nadia Farhat, who represents Leen Valley on Nottingham City Council, said: “The Labour Party's failure to promptly and effectively denounce the atrocities in Gaza is the ultimate reason for my decision. It is not what I stand for, and it goes against my principles."

It comes after it emerged 37 Labour MPs signed a parliamentary motion expressing their “deep alarm” at the "Israeli military bombardment and total siege of Gaza."

The motion, tabled by Richard Burgon who served in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, also attacks the “collective punishment of the Palestinian people” and demands an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. 

Meanwhile, several Scottish Labour officials resigned over new party guidance about responding to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

The party, which is led by Anas Sarwar, told local branches they should not table motions relating to Gaza.

Nine officials resigned in Glasgow and six in Edinburgh. These include Baroness Bryan of Partick, who sits as a peer in the House of Lords. 

In a statement, the officials from Scottish Labour's Glasgow Kelvin branch, said: “It seems preposterous to us that a local political party cannot have a substantive discussion on contemporary events commanding the attention of the entire world.

"We refute any suggestion by party officials that the mere discussion of the Gaza situation would be 'prejudicial or grossly detrimental to the Labour Party'. 

“On the contrary, we believe that the absence of such discussion brings our party into disrepute.

"We cannot fulfil this aim if we are forced to shut down discussion, and we refuse to be part of a party machinery which stifles democracy."

In a bid to prevent more resignations, Sir Keir has since written to all Labour councillors setting out his position on Hamas’s terror attack on Israel.

A Labour spokesman said the party’s position was to "completely condemn" the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel and to say that Israel has "a right to defend herself, to go and get the hostages back".

However, he stressed "all parties need to act in accordance with international law" and it was "vitally important" that humanitarian aid reached Gaza.

He added: “[Sir Keir] respects those who are councillors who have communities to represent across the religious spectrum, across people of all faiths and none.”

A Scottish Labour spokesman added of the situation north of the border: "We have repeatedly and unequivocally condemned the actions of Hamas."

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