Twenty Labour councillors resign amid bullying claims and Gaza row in Pendle

Daniel Green
Photo: Jane McIlroy/Shutterstock

Twenty Labour councillors in Lancashire, including the leader of Pendle Borough Council, have quit the party after accusing Labour of “bullying tactics” to “suppress” free speech.

Pendle’s group of Labour councillors accused the national party of “targeting local councillors”, attempting to stop some from standing standing for re-election, according to local media.

All of Labour’s 11 borough councillors in Pendle, now sit as independents, with other councillors from Brierfield Town Council and Nelson Town Council forming independent groups.

Asjad Mahmood, leader of Pendle Council, said in a statement, seen by the Lancashire Telegraph, that he felt senior party officials had attempted to impose their ideas on a local level, though few further details have been reported on the allegations.

He said: “As a Labour councillor, I have always felt the party’s policies were aligned with my own beliefs and those of the constituents who have honoured me with their votes.

“Sadly, over a recent period, senior party officials have attempted to impose their ideas at a local level. I was elected to serve the public, not party officials.”

The Lancashire Telegraph reports the new independent group will remain in control of Pendle council in coalition with the Lib Dems, leaving it out of Labour hands.

Three of the councillors from Pendle – Mohammed Ammer, Ruby Anwar and Zafar Ali – were among 250 Labour councillors to call on the Labour leadership to back an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza conflict roughly three weeks after the outbreak of war.

Cllr Mahmood had also called on Keir Starmer to resign as party leader in November last year to “allow someone to lead out party who has compassion and speaks out against injustice and indiscriminate killing of innocent human beings”.

Azhar Ali, who was embroiled in scandal over comments he made about the conflict in the run-up to the Rochdale by-election, sits as an independent councillor for Nelson East on Lancashire County Council.

The move comes just days after Labour launched their campaign for the local elections next month. Six wards are up for election on Pendle Borough Council on May 2nd.

It has been claimed that some local Labour councillors had been facing fresh due diligence checks by the party.

Speaking to Times Radio, Pat McFadden said he regretted that the councillors had chosen to quit the party.

He said: “I understand why people will have strong views about political issues. We’ve got a lot of strong views in the Labour Party, but I don’t have the power to control what people think any more than anyone else does – and I always regret it if people leave.”

A Labour spokesperson told the Lancashire Telegraph: “The Labour Party’s focus is on winning the general election so we can improve the lives of those we are elected to serve.”

LabourList contacted Labour and Cllr Mahmood for comment.

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