6 more Labour councillors resign over Starmer’s Gaza comments
A further six Labour members of Oxford City Council resigned their party membership on 20 October, citing Keir Starmer’s refusal to condemn the “collective punishment of Palestinians” in the conflict in Gaza.
The councillors resigned at a meeting of the Oxford and District Labour Party. Among them are Cllr Jabu Nala-Hartley, former Chair of the ODLP; Cllr Edward Mundy, former Whip of the City Council Labour Group; and Cllrs Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini, Paula Dunne, Duncan Hall, and Imogen Thomas.
Cllr Thomas outlined her reasons for leaving the party in a speech. She stated that “The UN has ruled that Gaza is still under Israeli occupation. Under international law, the occupying power is responsible for meeting the needs of its population. However, since at least 2007, Gaza has been under blockade; an act illegal under international law.
“The Labour leadership, locally and nationally, has sought to actively silence members and representatives who have acted to highlight violations of international law, banning motions, as we’ve seen, from branches, strongly advising councillors against attending demonstrations.”
It was only at the end of the meeting that Cllr Nala-Hartley also announced her resignation to the shock of attendees.
These six councillors join Cllrs Shaista Aziz and Amar Latif, who resigned from the Labour Party last week on the same grounds. On 11 October Starmer told LBC that “Israel has the right to defend herself” after being asked if cutting off water and electricity in Gaza was justified.
In a joint statement released after the meeting, the councillors said: “At a time when it’s been crucial to call for an immediate ceasefire and a de-escalation, and to insist Israel abides by international law, Keir Starmer and the shadow Foreign Secretary have instead endorsed collective punishment, blockade, siege and mass civilian casualties.
“As Starmer has said, “Israel has that right” to continue deadly attacks on Gazans. This is complicity in war crimes.”
Pressure is mounting on Starmer after he attempted to reconcile with members in a letter to councillors on Wednesday. Despite expressing that “this is a terrifying and distressing time for everyone – Israeli, Palestinian, Muslim and Jew”, tensions in the party remain.
The 8 resignations from Labour this month bring the number of Labour city councillors down to 24, with 24 in opposition. All 8 former Labour councillors will continue to serve as independents.
Cllr Chris Smowton, Liberal Democrat Group Leader on the council, said in response to the resignations: “This cannot have been an easy decision for those councillors who have resigned from Labour. I can understand their frustration with Keir Starmer, who has failed to communicate that both terrorism and inhumane response to terrorism are unacceptable.
“I think Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesperson Layla Moran has set an excellent example here, consistently condemning terrorism, and also calling for innocent civilians in Gaza to be protected and for the delivery of humanitarian aid to be expedited.
“Oxford needs a stable administration, united to deal with the city’s most urgent problems: to get on top of the city’s spiralling housing costs, to decisively set Oxford on course to net zero, and to ensure much-needed affordable homes don’t come at the cost of the city’s parks and wilderness.
“Labour has lost its majority on Oxford City Council. If they can’t get a grip, then the Liberal Democrats stand ready to get on with the job of governing in the best interests of our city.”