Your support keeps us publishing. Follow this link to subscribe to our print magazine.

Labour Loses Oxford City Council Over Gaza

Eight Labour councillors in Oxford City Council have now resigned over comments made by Keir Starmer, endorsing the collective punishment of Palestinians. Six of them who resigned today over Palestine explain why this was entirely preventable.

Oxford City Council councillors who resigned from the Labour Party.

As local Labour councillors, we have always used our positions to further socialist and progressive causes — and we feel this is no longer possible within the party.

In light of the Labour Party’s failure to stand up for international law and human rights, and the authoritarian and undemocratic manner in which this position was enforced, we can no longer serve as Labour councillors and have resigned from the party.

In 2021, prior to local elections in Oxford, we pledged that — if elected — we would build practical solidarity with Palestinians. We made clear to voters that we oppose Israel’s military occupation and system of apartheid and that we stand with oppressed people in their struggle for freedom. Recent comments from Keir Starmer have committed Labour to a position that conflicted with our commitment to voters. 

Over the past two weeks, we have witnessed horrific escalations of violence unfold in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank. In our twin city of Ramallah, Israeli soldiers and settlers have killed dozens of Palestinians. And Israel’s horrific and indiscriminate bombardment of Gaza has killed 3,800 people, including 853 children, in just 12 days. 

Britain provides Israel with political and military support, so a call from the leader of the opposition to de-escalate and uphold international law would have been heard. Instead, when asked on LBC radio if putting Gaza under siege was appropriate, Keir Starmer said he believes ‘Israel does have that right’. This was an endorsement of cutting off water, food, power and medicine to more than 2 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, constituting collective punishment — a crime under international law. 

At a time when it is crucial to call for an immediate ceasefire and a de-escalation and to insist Israel abides by international law, the Labour leadership have instead endorsed collective punishment, blockade, siege and mass civilian casualties. 

Not only has the party leadership taken a position that makes it complicit in crimes under international law, it is attempting to members and prevent elected officials from standing in solidarity with Palestinians. Labour Party branches have been banned from discussing the conflict, and elected representatives have been strongly advised not to attend pro-Palestine demonstrations. These attempts to silence debate and attack the democratic rights of councillors and party members demonstrate that Labour is no longer the member-led organisation it was when we joined.

With two resignations already last week, our resignations mean that Labour has lost control of Oxford City Council. We hope to use this action to send the message to the Labour Party leadership that it must call for a ceasefire, the upholding of international law, and an end to the occupation. 

We have been proud to represent our communities and do not take the decision to resign from Labour lightly. In a choice between serving our party or justice, we have chosen justice. All six of us will remain as Independent councillors, continuing to work tirelessly in our wards and addressing the huge inequalities we see in Oxford with socialist principles at the heart of our work.


Dr Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini is a councillor in Northfield Brook, Oxford

Paula Dunne is a councillor in Cowley, Oxford

Jabu Nala-Hartley is a councillor in Barton & Sandhills, Oxford

Duncan Hall is a councillor in Northfield Brook, Oxford

Edward Mundy is a councillor in Holywell, Oxford

Imogen Thomas is a councillor in Holywell, Oxford