By Charlie Kimber
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2895

No Ceasefire No Vote conference debates left alternatives to Labour

It came the day after voters in the Rochdale by-election punished Keir Starmer and Labour for supporting Israel's genocide
Issue 2895
A picture of a panel with 6 people on it at the No Ceasefire No Vote conference in London, they sit behind a banner wit its name

Councillors and other activists at the No Ceasefire No Vote conference in London (Picture: Socialist Worker)

With Labour facing its biggest splits and turmoil for two decades, around 200 people took part in the No Ceasefire, No Vote conference in London on Saturday. 

The conference aimed to support those who have broken from Labour over its refusal to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. The repeated refrain was no vote for those who support genocide, no vote for those who are complicit in the murders in Gaza.

At the centre of the day were councillors who had left Labour. Councillors from Stroud, Liverpool, Sheffield, Blackburn, Pendle, Bolton, Burnley, Haringey, Newham, Kensington and Chelsea, Oxford, Bristol, Hastings, Norwich, Nottingham, Worthing, Merton, Newcastle, Kirklees and Gedling backed the event.

Former Labour members spoke powerfully about their anger at Keir Starmer, their anguish over leaving Labour and their sense of hope now.

Solma Ahmed from Essex is a former leading member of the Labour left group Momentum and a former Labour Party Women’s Committee member. She spoke about how she “got her freedom back” by leaving Labour.

Jo Lawson, a Kirklees Community Independent councillor from West Yorkshire, said, “Gaza was the final straw. For a long time, I have had to justify the unjustifiable.”

Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini, an independent councillor from Oxford, said she had been a Labour councillor since 2018 but left at the end of October last year.

Mary Mason, a Haringey Independent Socialist councillor from north London, spoke about campaigning for British troops out of Ireland and over many other issues in the 1970s. She later joined Labour and became a councillor in 2022.

But she faced systematic pressure from the right wing and had left the party over its support for genocide. The conference came immediately after George Galloway’s triumph in the Rochdale by-election, a political earthquake. 

Many of those present agreed with Andrew Burgin who opened the day. He said there were “many controversies” with Galloway but the Rochdale result was “a vote for Gaza and a rebuke to the mainstream parties and their support for genocide”. 

Rochdale has shaken Starmer and Sunak. But the politics of Galloway and his party can’t lead the movement forward. 

For a significant section of Labour members, the support for Israel has been as devastating as Labour’s war on Iraq in 2003 was for an earlier generation. And some at the conference had left over Iraq, rejoined when Corbyn was leader, and had now left again.

The gathering was seen as the beginning, with many issues to be debated. Some want a new Labour-type party with a manifesto similar to Corbyn’s in 2017. Others are debating new forms of organisation.

One former Labour councillor, who did not want to be named, told Socialist Worker, “I’m rethinking whether councils and parliament is the way forward. I am inspired much more by the Palestine marches, Just Stop Oil and women standing up to police violence. 

“Perhaps we need to ask what our definition of success looks like. If you think we’re going to get 20 MPs we might be disappointed. If we say we will build a new movement, that’s more possible.”

It’s very welcome these discussions are taking place. They show the potential for a much more serious challenge to Labour. Socialist Worker will support credible left candidates. 

The source of a genuine political break is the great movement for Palestine, and mobilisation in the streets remains crucial. 

As Sean Vernell, a UCU union member said, “We need to keep building for the workplace day of action on 8 March and the national demonstration the next day. That will provide the basis for political alternatives to Labour, and help to build our networks.”

Hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps millions, are revolted by Starmer and looking for an alternative. People on the streets have transformed British politics since 7 October. 

Lindsey German, Stop The War Coalition convenor, said she would personally support the sort of people represented in the room in elections. But rightly she had said earlier, “We must not say we’ve done the movement, now we can move on to elections. We can only talk about elections because of the movement.” 

This is a tipping point politically. There is repression, racism and capitalist class war from the Tories—much of it supported by Labour. But there are also many defiant and determined people who are fighting back and asking big political questions, including about anti-imperialism and socialism.

Nostalgia for Corbyn is not enough. We need a political break from Labourism, a politics centred on parliament, looking to change within the system and giving priority to electoral calculation. 

Several speakers at the conference spoke about doing both elections and the movement. But which will discipline the other? Under Corbyn, for example, the Labour left prioritised manoeuvres inside parliament and elections over the fightback on the streets, workplaces and campuses. 

The resistance on the streets and the workplaces must be the priority. The most exciting and inspiring part of the conference was people moving beyond mainstream politics and being inspired by action.

  • Another conference is set for 13 April in Blackburn. It is expected to give a more definite shape to the networks that exist now. Details at noceasefirenovote.org/

Voice from the conference

Solma Ahmed, former Momentum National Committee member and former Labour Women’s Committee. She spoke about how she “got her freedom back” by leaving Labour: 

“I was a Labour Party member for more than 20 years, but it wasn’t until Jeremy Corbyn became leader that I became North Essex CLP Secretary, responsible for campaigning. 

“And I had this passion to stand for Parliament in North Essex, where I was the only black face in the village. 

“Our political system is broken. And it’s been broken for a long time. Jeremy Corbyn tried to fix it, but he was stopped.  His own party stopped him. 

“I left the Labour Party because of the way I was treated. This little black Asian woman wanted to be a Labour Party candidate. The centre, the eastern region, couldn’t stand it. 

“The day before the hustings, they sent me an email telling me my social media post sounded antisemitic.

“I was completely broken, being accused of something like that when you have been a known, anti-racist all your life. I asked for evidence and I’m still waiting for evidence. But I still thought I would stay in the party, I would fight from inside.

“I stood as a Momentum National Coordinating Group member and I won. So I spent two years trying to fix Momentum, and then Momentum suggested why don’t you stand for the Labour Women’s Committee? And people voted me in.

“I only lasted six months and I’m sorry to let you down but I just couldn’t bear meeting each month, and Anneliese Dodds reporting back on equality. When we, three black women, challenged her about the treatment of Diane Abbott and Apsana Begum and about Islamophobia she would say ‘Oh, I agree with you. Ah, let’s move on. What’s next on the agenda?

“So we three black women decided to resign together after six months of really struggling, Although you know, my subject on Islamophobia gets me all sorts of wonderful replies. I didn’t want to be a doormat. And by leaving the party and so-called position I’ve got my freedom back. 

“I was told as a Labour Party member, don’t say this don’t say that. And I’m one of those women who hate when people tell me what to do.

“Since 7 October we know the world has changed completely. The latest wave of Islamophobia has been unleashed by our politicians. And each time the peak goes up, I see it’s the politicians who are unleashing hate on the streets.  

“What happened in parliament over the ceasefire vote tells us there’s no accountability of Parliament. They make and break rules as they see fit. It was one of the most shameful days, but there’s been quite a few recently in parliament.  

“This Israeli genocide just exposed everything we needed to know about the political system and structures. Since 7 October we have seen how the establishment sticks together.

“The left is usually fragmented, but I hope no more. We build alliances and movements and networks, but we need to go beyond that. We need a party for the left. We need to forget our differences. 

“We need to give hope for humanity. We must not be afraid of building a new left party. The time is right.  

“People are crying out for an alternative, a party that would offer compassion, hope, respect, anti-war, anti-establishment, anti-colonialism, imperialism and anti-austerity.   

“Palestine is very important. What we need to do as well is to face the challenges of the economy, climate change, the NHS, education, housing, cost of living and wealth distribution.”


Sophia Naqvi, an Independent councillor from Newham in east London, spoke about how she had been re-elected after leaving Labour: 

“I’m a third-generation British Pakistani. My granddad, my father and I have always supported the Labour Party as we believed it was a party of peace, justice and equality. 

“During my time as a woman’s officer, I was slowly realising how Labour policies were becoming similar to the Conservatives. It was clear to me that the Labour Party had changed and we have been silenced following the suspension of both CLPs in Newham. 

“The final straw came when Keir Starmer refused to criticise Israel’s violations of international law that put Palestine and Palestinians in harm’s way. 

“What is he going to do for me or you? A man who has been continuously justifying the killing of innocent lives? Along came the by-elections and I stood as an independent in the ward which is heavily dominated by Labour.

“Gaza was an eye opener for many, but a multitude of other things. They were tired of being taken for granted, they were tired of voting for councillors who they would see during elections, but they would then disappear. 

“I was committed to bringing change, resulting in our win on my election day. I salute all the councillors throughout the country who have left Labour and are now standing as independents. They have sided with humanity and justice 

“Until Palestinians are free, there’ll be no Labour vote for me. No ceasefire, no vote.”

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