Interfaith group of councillors and activists ask for meeting – but Starmer breaches protocol and doesn’t even reply
A delegation of Labour councillors and activists who asked to meet Keir Starmer to explain their horror at the continuing war on Gaza has been ignored entirely by the so-called ‘Labour leader’.
Caroline Raine, acting chair of Oxford and District Labour Party wrote to Starmer and his office this week:
I would like to again emphasise that we have made arrangements to come to Westminster tomorrow afternoon. We expect to be seen by someone from LOTO between 2.30 and 4pm please. We gave notice in good time and it would be very poor practice in a crisis like this for us to be sent away without being heard.
I list the members of our delegation below. We consist of interfaith and secular sitting Labour councillors, Labour activists and councillors who have recently resigned from the Party. The purpose of our delegation is to stress to the Leadership that we uphold a universal aspiration for human rights, due process, freedom of speech and thought, dignity and equality. We include in our delegation Jews, Muslims, Christians and those of no religious faith. We all share the same deep concern that the war against Hamas is being framed as an ethno-religious conflict and that it is being inflicted on Palestinians in Gaza as collective punishment.
While Starmer and his team couldn’t even bother to respond, the delegation – which by now consisted of eleven Labour or recently former Labour members, was welcomed by John McDonnell at Portcullis House in Westminster, who said he would take their message to the parliamentary Labour party:
The group included:
Cllr Martin Abrams, London Borough of Lambeth
Cllr Emma Taylor-Beal, Worthing Borough Council
Cllr Claudia Turbet-Delof, London Borough of Hackney
Cllr Russell Whiting, Gedling Borough Council.
Cllr Penny Wrout, London Borough of Hackney
Skwawkbox has obtained the message that the delegation wanted to put to Starmer and his team:
We want to put the case for an immediate cease-fire, our argument based on the context of Palestinian oppression, with the history of Israel’s military occupation and the seventeen-year siege of the Gaza strip.
One of us is South African and knows too well what apartheid means. She pays tribute to the Labour MPs who contributed to Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and the recognition of a free South Africa.
We want an Israel where Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and liberty. By agreeing that the war against Hamas can continue after a humanitarian pause, the Labour Party is colluding in the endorsement of war crimes and of breaches of international law. The war, estimated by Prime Minister Netanyahu to last for weeks, will mean a continuation of unacceptable levels of violence; ultimately the goal is a further expulsion of Palestinians from their land.
This is not defence, it is retaliation. It will not keep civilians in Israel safe from further violent attacks, also unacceptable, and will not lead to any sort of two or one state “solution”. There is already the risk of a global rise in antisemitism and islamophobic attacks.
We call on Keir Starmer to reject the binary opposition of Jews versus Muslims. As the UN’s New York High Commissioner on Human Rights said, there is “no room for doubt or debate” in the face of such wholesale slaughter. The systematic persecution and purging of Palestinians must stop now. There will be no peace, for any of us, without justice.
On the same day as the delegation, the leaders of the council Labour groups in Burnley and Pendle publicly called, on behalf of their fellow councillors, for Starmer to resign.
It is unthinkable that Starmer would have ignored an email from right-wing, pro-Israel groups requesting a meeting – but he has shown that he prefers to suspend Labour figures who call for peace between Israelis and Palestinians and an end to genocide, and has made clear that he has no interest in even a ceasefire in the massacre of civilian women and children in Gaza.
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