By Isabel Ringrose and Charlie Kimber 
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2880

Starmer’s support for Israel is tearing the Labour Party apart

Starmer's support for Israel pushes more councillors to resign, from Blackburn and Burnley
Issue 2880
Protesting Starmers' speech at Chatham House

Raging outside Starmer’s recent speech (Picture: Guy Smallman)

A slew of Labour  councillors have quit the party in protest and disgust at Keir Starmer’s refusal to condemn Israel, or even call for a ceasefire.

Last Sunday ten councillors from Burnley and another from Lancashire country council quit the party, including council leader Afrasian Anwar. Anwar last week called for Starmer to resign.
 
This takes the total number of councillors to have cancelled their membership to around 50. In a statement the Burnley councillors said they have engaged in “extensive efforts” with senior Labour leaders including Starmer”.
 
“Despite our persistent endeavours, it has become apparent that Keir Starmer and the leadership either cannot or will not heed our concerns or acknowledge the sentiments within our communities,” they said.
 
“In response to our calls for him to resign he responded that the individual concerns of members are not his focus.
 
“After exhausting every available option, we have arrived at the conclusion that the current party stance on Palestine does not align with the values we hold dear.”
 
Seven Blackburn councillors also quit the party. Saj Ali used his break from driving a bus to speak to Socialist Worker about his decision. 
 
“I finally made up my mind to go after deputy leader Angela Rayner held a Zoom call for councillors,” he told Socialist Worker.
 
“We requested—we didn’t demand—that Labour back a ceasefire in Gaza.
 
“It’s such a small thing, such a limited move. But Rayner went on about the difficulties in calling for a ceasefire and said no more than that she would take it back to Keir. Well. That wasn’t good enough for me. 
 
“I resigned straight away afterwards with another councillor, and five other Blackburn councillors have resigned now too.”
 
Ali has been a councillor for six years and is a member of the Unite union. But now he has “no faith in Labour at all”.
 
“When I see children being ripped apart by Israeli bombing and Labour doesn’t call for a ceasefire then I can’t continue in that party,” he added. 
 
Councillor Mustafa Desai has a similar story. But his unease has been growing for some years. He told Socialist Worker, “Keir Starmer hasn’t adopted Labour’s core values.
 
“I feel that they have been eroding for a while. Labour is supposed to represent working class people and it doesn’t do that anymore.
 
“I was a firm believer in trying to achieve change from within the party. I tried that with Labour colleagues and by myself. It hasn’t worked.”
 
Desai has been a Labour member for around 20 years and has been a councillor for 12 of those. But the party’s refusal to call for a ceasefire has forced him out.
 
A third Nottinghamshire councillor has also resigned from Labour. Councillor Des Gibbons, who sits on Gedling Borough Council, said he will now stand as an independent.
 
Gibbons, has been a Labour Party member for around 20 years, said, “Keir Starmer’s original statement set off alarm bells for me. “My decision is against the leadership stance on not calling for a ceasefire.
 
“It is out of step with the public opinion in this country and with the United Nations.” 
 
Gibbons previously suspended his Labour Party membership over Tony Blair’s decision to send troops into Iraq in 2003. 
 
Starmer is determined to pose as an ally of Israel. A spokesperson said calling for a ceasefire wold “freeze the conflict” and could lead to Hamas carrying out further attacks on Israel.
 
Around 16 Labour frontbenchers had broken from the party’s official line. 
 
But David Lammy, the pro-imperialist shadow foreign secretary, made no concessions. 
 
He said that any member of the shadow cabinet who openly defied Starmer and called for an immediate ceasefire should resign. 
 
If Labour MPs, councillors and members want to wipe away the shame of their leadership’s position, they have to openly rebel. 
 
It means being in the streets, urging on resistance to the Tories and Starmer and encouraging revolt. 
 
And the conclusion should be to leave Labour and help to build a socialist alternative.

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