Labour lose control over Oldham Council amid anger over Gaza

Pic: Oldham Council

Labour have lost control of Oldham Council for the first time in 13 years with independent candidates winning in several wards where the war in Gaza is reported to have been a decisive factor.

Independent candidates, several of whom explicitly campaigned in support of Palestine, gained five seats, leaving Labour with 26 councillors and pushing the council into no overall control.

One quarter of Oldham’s population is Muslim and many have suggested Keir Starmer’s stance on Gaza (he has strongly supported Israel) could be to blame for the result – especially in wards such as St Mary’s, Alexandra and Coldhurst where there are large Muslim populations.

A number of independent candidates in these areas ran on “Boycott Labour” campaigns, while others used the colours of the Palestinian flag on their leaflets to show their support.

Labour’s national campaign co-ordinator Pat McFadden acknowledged the crisis in Gaza had been “a factor in some places,” saying that with “so many innocent people being killed I’m not surprised people have strong feelings about that.”

But he added “very local factors” had also played a role in Oldham, while council leader Arooj Shah blamed “13 years of austerity” and a “divisive toxic politics” in the town that pre-dated the latest outbreak of conflict in Gaza.

Labour remains the largest party on Oldham Council with 27 out of 60 seats, while the number of independent councillors has risen to 16.

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There are also nine Liberal Democrats and eight Conservatives, meaning a coalition of opposition parties could topple the Labour administration.

Among the Independent candidates elected were:

Werneth – Ali Amjad

St Mary’s – Aisha Kouser

Coldhurst – Montaz Ali Azad

Alexandra – Zaheer Ali

Failsworth West – Majid Khan

The overall turnout for local elections was 35.58 per cent of residents casting their ballots this year – a rise from the 31.5 per cent turnout last year.

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