Three London councillors resign over Labour’s Gaza stance

Three councilors from the London Borough of Hackney have resigned from the Labour Party to form the Hackney Independant Socialist Group [Hackney PSC]

Three East London councillors resigned from the Labour Party on Friday over the opposition party’s perceived support for Israel’s war on Gaza.

Councillors Fliss Premru, Claudia Turbet-Delof, and Penny Wrout announced their departure from the Labour Party in the London Borough of Hackney but said they will maintain their seats on the council as independent socialists.

Premru, Turbet-Delof and Wrout are planning to work together under the banner of the Hackney Independent Socialist Group.

In a statement posted on X, they said: “We can no longer in good conscience continue campaigning for a Labour party which nationally refuses to call out the genocide in Gaza, continues to support arms sales to Israel, and seeks to clamp down on pro-Palestinian protests.”

“It’s been very difficult to witness the Labour Party standing by genocide and the huge fights we’ve had even to get ceasefire motions through,” Premru told The New Arab.

“We found it very difficult in the council to get people to talk about it, and it was always presented as maybe it’s a national problem or the very disingenuous argument about splitting our communities.”

Wrout said to The New Arab that not only will they have time to work for their residents instead of the time-consuming “Labour Party bureaucracy campaigning”, but they will also have time to press the council to divest from an Israeli arms firm before the Anti-Boycott Bill comes in effect, which will prevent public bodies from divesting against Israel.

Wrout revealed the council has funds invested in Elbit Systems from the pension fund.

“We have a very short window of opportunity to try to press Hackney council to sell those shares, and I think probably our priority for the three of us is to shine as much light on that as possible simply because it’s just a very limited window, so we have to call them out on that at every opportunity to try and force their hand to sell now,” Wrout says.

All three were among a group of councillors who returned from a two-month suspension during the same week as International Women’s Day, after voting to hear a motion calling for a ceasefire in Gaza in December.

They also voted in favour of a motion supporting an internal investigation into how Labour handled the case of former councillor Tom Dewey after he was convicted of possessing indecent images of children.

“There is a constant and ongoing punishment for people’s point of views in the Labour Party, people being blocked, being expelled, being suspended as a way of accumulating power and accumulating positions, and that for me was, I think, an absolute reason [to quit],” Councillor Turbet-Delof tells The New Arab. She says her reason for quitting was Labour stance on the war on Gaza, as well as the suspension of MP Dianne Abbott.

“I will see it as a massive, massive win and a major, major step forward in seeing that people will look at us, and they will see us speaking freely, bringing the topics that we would have been either punished, silenced, or not allowed to in the past or whipped,” Turbet-Delof adds.

Labour party leader Keir Starmer has faced intense scrutiny over its pro-Israel stance, asserting Israel’s “right to defend itself” and refusal to back an immediate ceasefire, causing many members to resign.

A group of councillors resigned from the party shortly after 7 October over Starmer’s position, while eight shadow ministers and two parliamentary secretaries quit the party in November after 56 MPs backed the SNP’s motion calling for a ceasefire.

Premru notes that leaving the party is an opportunity to work with independents outside the Labour Party but also to help their “comrades” inside the party push Starmer to fund municipal socialism and to fund struggling councils that are on their knees trying to provide services to residents.

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