Labour loses Oxford Council majority after ninth resignation
The Labour Party has lost its majority of Oxford City Council after a ninth councillor resigned from the party over Party leader Keir Starmer’s comments on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Starmer’s comments on 11th October held that “Israel does have that right” when asked whether cutting off water and electricity supplies in Gaza was a proportionate response.
The Headington Hill & Northway councillor Barbara Coyne is the latest to leave in protest against Keir Starmer’s stance on the war in Gaza.
This comes after six councillors, Imogen Thomas, Edward Mundy, Paula Dunne, Duncan Hall, Dr Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini and Jabu Nala-Hartley all resigned on Friday over the “Labour leadership’s refusal to condemn collective punishment of Palestinians.”
The group of six joined Shaista Aziz and Amar Latif, who announced their resignations on 14th October.
Labour is now left with a minority leadership of 23 elected representatives, with 25 in opposition. It marks the first time since 2010 that the Party did not hold a majority on the Council.
In a statement, Councillor Coyne said: “That the Labour leadership continues to issue hollow statements as we watch a genocide unfold before our eyes is, in my view, unconscionable.”
“I have resigned from the party because I can no longer stand with a leadership that claims to value international law, human rights and equality, but will not condemn clear violations of these by Israel, and call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
“Self-defence does not justify crimes against humanity; no violence against civilians should be condoned.”
Although she confirmed she would be sitting as an independent, she informed Council Leader Susan Brown that she “does not wish to join any other groups on Oxford City Council and [sic] intends to vote with the Labour Group.”
On Thursday, Shaista Aziz and Amar Latif formed a new Independent Group after they resigned as Labour Councillors. Aziz, who also resigned as cabinet member for safer communities, will be official group Leader.
When asked why they made the decision to stay as independent councillors, Aziz told the Oxford Mail that “We’re trying to change the direction of the ruling of the city council.”
On representation, Aziz held that though they “were Labour councillors” it was also true that “people also voted for [them as individuals] as well”.
Latif expressed that they would be “working constructively with elected members, all stakeholders across the City, and residents to serve the people and communities of Oxford”.
A spokesman for the Oxford Labour Party responded that “That is a matter for them.” and the Labor administration “will continue to serve local residents, delivering on the manifesto pledges that Oxford residents voted for by a large majority.”
Labour divisions deepens after more than 20 Labour councillors resigned following Keir Starmer’s comments. He has since tried to clarify his comments saying that Israel had a “right to self-defence”, but this did not mean humanitarian aid for Gaza should be withheld.