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Twenty Labour councillors quit party in protest at leadership

<span>Keir Starmer, the Labour leader.</span><span>Photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images</span>
Keir Starmer, the Labour leader.Photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images

Twenty Labour councillors from Lancashire have resigned in protest at the party’s national leadership.

They have claimed that Labour “wants to control anything that any councillor wants to say” and have suggested its selection processes are unfair.

All 10 Labour members of Pendle borough council, including its leader, and Labour councillors on Nelson town council and Brierfield town council in Lancashire will sit as independents.

Mohammed Iqbal, a Pendle councillor, said: “In the last few weeks there has been a culture developing from the national Labour party that seems to want to control anything that any councillor wants to say. Or where there is good hard-working councillors that have been serving the community for a number of years, the party nationally seem to dictate who can stand where and when.”

Iqbal was previously suspended from the party for 18 months over claims he had made antisemitic comments at a meeting. The councillor, who denies the claims, told Granada TV: “I joined the Labour party over 30 years ago and have always been encouraged to speak out on issues.”

The Labour leadership has faced criticism from parts of the party over its position on the Gaza conflict.

Pat McFadden, Labour’s national campaign coordinator, said on Tuesday morning: “Everybody is allowed to have their own views and I fully understand why people feel really strongly about this issue. We saw what happened on October 7, we’ve seen what’s happened in the six months since then with tens of thousands of people being killed, and all the way through this we have said three things.”

He said Labour’s three demands in the conflict were a return of hostages, a ceasefire that lasts and a “better future for the Palestinian people”.

Asked about Iqbal’s departure, McFadden said: “If someone takes the decision to leave, that is something to be regretted, but what I am really focused on is the 2,000-plus Labour candidates who will be standing in the local elections in a few weeks’ time.”

Four of the councillors will stand for re-election in May’s polls, with candidate lists available by 4 April.

In November, the leader of Burnley borough council and 10 other councillors resigned in protest at Keir Starmer’s refusal to call for a ceasefire in the Gaza war, after a spate of similar exits from the party at councils across England.

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