Eleven councilors have quit the UK’s Labour Party after their calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza were ignored by the party’s leader Keir Starmer.
British media reported on Monday that the leader of Burnley Council and 10 other councilors had left the party after they called for Starmer to resign.
“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,” the group said in a statement on Sunday.
“In response to our calls for him to resign he responded that the individual concerns of members are not his focus, further illustrating that he does not value the voice of the grassroots of the party,” the statement added.
The 11 councilors described their memberships as “untenable” due to the leadership’s refusal to demand a ceasefire in West Asia.
Keir, who has come under internal pressure for Labour to demand a cessation of hostilities, told reporters that his focus was on stopping the suffering in Gaza, not on the “individual positions” of party members.
Starmer on Tuesday echoed remarks made earlier by the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu by saying, “Now is not the time for a ceasefire in Gaza.”
Labour have backed the UK government’s stance of calling for a pause in the fighting to allow humanitarian aid and medical treatments to reach Palestinians in Gaza.
However, Afrasiab Anwar, who has been in the UK Labour Party for 10 years, said, the stance was “nonsensical” and did not capture the strength of feeling in his Lancashire town, along with communities elsewhere in Britain, regarding the Apartheid Zionist Israeli regime’s ongoing war on Gaza.
“We just can’t stand by watching and being part of a party that is not speaking out, or at the very least calling for a ceasefire,” Anwar said.
“Instead of talking of peace - all of our world leaders, including the leader of the Labour Party, are talking about humanitarian pauses. It’s just nonsensical.
“I just don’t think the message is getting through in terms of how our communities, right across the board, are feeling about this.”
Also, the leader of Lancashire’s Pendle Council had called on Keir to resign from his post as party leader on Thursday.
The call for Starmer to resign came after senior Labour figures also broke ranks to challenge his anti-Gaza stance - including London mayor Sadiq Khan, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, and Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham.
In response to the mounting pressure inside the party, demanding the Labour leadership call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, a Labour spokesman said, “Labour fully understands calls for a ceasefire."
The spokesperson claimed that a ceasefire would only “freeze this conflict and would leave hostages in Gaza and Hamas with the infrastructure and capability to carry out the sort of attack we saw on October 7.”
According to the spokesperson, Labour is calling for humanitarian pauses in the fighting which is the “best and most realistic way” to address the humanitarian emergency in Gaza and is a position shared by the US and EU.
Labour has lost at least 50 councilors over the party’s position on Palestine till now, losing overall control of Oxford and Burnley councils.
Analysts say the refusal by the party’s leadership to back a ceasefire in Gaza will create immense discontent and division within the party, affecting the polls in the next general election.
Israel launched the war on Gaza on October 7 after the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas launched Operation Al-Aqsa Storm against the occupant forces in response to the Israeli regime’s decades-long atrocities.
At least 9,770 people in Gaza have been killed in the Israeli attacks on the blockaded territory, most of which were women, children and the elderly, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.
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