Labour loses 23,000 members over UK’s Gaza policy

Published March 31, 2024
Britain’s opposition Labour Party Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer leaves the BBC headquarters after appearing on The Andrew Marr Show in London, Britain January 5. — Reuters/File
Britain’s opposition Labour Party Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer leaves the BBC headquarters after appearing on The Andrew Marr Show in London, Britain January 5. — Reuters/File

LONDON: The United Kingdom’s Labour party reported a loss of membership by 23,000 over its Gaza policy and environmental messaging, new figures revealed.

Official figures showed that memberships fell from 390,000 in January to 366,604 last week, though the party is leading in opinion polls and widely believed to win in the next general election after a 14-year rule of the Conservative party.

A report in The Guardian quoted a senior Labour figure saying, “It is a big fall in just two months. People were surprised, even taken aback.” It added that Labour insiders believe the fall is primarily a result of “anger among Muslim and other Labour supporters over Keir Starmer’s position on Gaza” and his refusal over several months to call for an immediate ceasefire.

Labour leader Keir Starmer came under heavy criticism soon after the conflict erupted. On October 11, four days after Hamas killed Israeli citizens and Israel responded with an aggressive campaign of air attacks and blockades, Starmer gave an interview in which he said Israel had the “right” to cut off power and water from Gaza.

The party’s refusal to call for a ceasefire had also led to the resignation of at least 70 Labour councillors, triggering a loss of control in four councils.

The Labour Muslim Network, a British campaign group associated with the party, in February warned of the potential loss of support from Muslim voters if the party does not alter its stance on the Gaza conflict.

In a statement, it said, “…the Labour Party’s response has been unacceptable and deeply offensive to Muslims across Britain.

“Muslim voters have been watching and are now sending a clear message — they will not support any political party that does not fervently oppose the crimes committed against the people of Gaza. The Labour leadership must change paths now or risk losing the support of the Muslim community for a generation,” it added.

Mr Starmer has faced rebellions over the party’s stance on Gaza from his own MPs as well as frontbench resignations. In November, 10 frontbenchers resigned or were removed from his team after voting for a Scottish National Party motion calling for a ceasefire.

Reports suggest it has also faced anger from green supporters over its decision to drop a commitment to spend £28bn if it wins the general election on its green investment plan.

Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2024

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