The leader of Burnley Borough Council has resigned along with ten other Muslim councillors in protest at party leader Keir Starmer’s refusal to call for a Gaza ceasefire.
The decision by Afrasiab Anwar, who has been a member of the party for a decade, comes following earlier demands that he and others issued for Starmer to step down.
In a joint statement released by the councillors on November 5, they expressed dismay at Labour’s Gaza position.
“After exhausting every available option, we have arrived to the conclusion that the current party stance on Palestine does not align with the values we hold dear.”
Starmer is facing increasing calls to resign after eleven more councillors quit Labour over his “nonsensical refusal” to demand a Gaza ceasefire.
The Labour leader said in a speech at Chatham House on Tuesday October 31 that while he understood calls for a pause in the fighting, he did “not believe that it is the correct position.”
His comments came not long after 330 Labour councillors signed a letter urging Starmer to back a ceasefire in Gaza.
When questioned about Starmer’s reaction to the letter, Shadow Pensions Secretary, Liz Kendal, said it would have been the “easiest thing for him to change his mind” but stressed such action “will not work.”
Other councillors have already ditched the party in other areas of the UK, including Oxford City Council which saw around 20 Labour defections.
Reports have circulated suggesting that Labour’s leadership are in panic mode over the backlash and whether the revolt could spreads into the Parliamentary Labour Party.
Shadow ministers Naz Shah and Paul Barker all challenged Sir Keir’s refusal to support a ceasefire. At least 13 frontbenchers are now reported to oppose Starmer’s position.
Labour’s London Mayor Sadiq Khan also joined calls for a ceasefire.
“It would stop the killing and would allow vital aid supplies to reach those who need it in Gaza” adding it would allow “more time to prevent a protracted conflict in the region and further devastating loss of life,” he said.