Redbridge Labour councillors sign call for ceasefire in Gaza

Eleven Labour councillors in Redbridge have joined hundreds of colleagues across the country in calling on their leader Sir Keir Starmer to support a ceasefire in Gaza.

The group of councillors undersigned a letter by the Labour Muslim Councillors Network, published on October 25, which urges Sir Keir to push for an “immediate ceasefire”.

This includes Redbridge’s cabinet member for enforcement and community safety Khayer Chowdhury and Deputy Mayor Saira Jamil.

Nationally, tensions have grown in the party since Sir Keir appeared to support Israel’s right to cut off power and water to Gaza’s population in an LBC Radio interview.

The Labour leader – who has since called for a “humanitarian pause” – days later attempted to clarify this by arguing he was answering a question about Israel’s right to defending itself.

The letter, addressed to Sir Keir, says failing to push for a ceasefire means hundreds of Gazans will “pay the price”.

It reads: “Without an immediate ceasefire, UN agencies, NGOs and charities have made it clear that much-needed aid will not reach pregnant women, children, critically ill patients and those others that will simply be left to die.

“As Labour councillors elected to serve our constituents, the message we have been hearing repeatedly over the past two weeks is simple, people just want an end to the bloodshed and the loss of innocent life.

“No nation, no people or community should have to endure collective punishment and the same should be the case for the Palestinian people.

“We are also clear that hostages held captive must also be returned to their families safely.”

Across the country, more than 20 Labour councillors have resigned over the issue and more than 250 have now put their name under the Labour Muslim Councillors Network’s letter.

Redbridge, which has a growing Muslim population of about 97,000 people – just under a third of the borough’s population – saw more than 1,000 people attend a “stand with Palestine” protest outside the town hall on Sunday (October 22).

Despite Labour politicians being “strongly advised” not to attend pro-Palestine events by their general secretary David Evans last week, several Redbridge councillors were pictured at the protest.

The day before the protest, the borough’s Labour group released a joint statement calling for a “peaceful resolution” that would protect civilians in Gaza and Israel.

The statement criticised Israel’s “collective punishment” of people in Gaza and said councillors are in a state of shock at the horrors of the Hamas attack on October 7.

It added: “Locally, we stand with all our communities at this time of deep grief and anxiety. Redbridge must never be a place where hatred can flourish.”

Redbridge Council’s leader Jas Athwal has been contacted for comment but has not responded at the time of publication.

The full list of Redbridge councillors calling for a ceasefire is: Saiqa Qayum, Mushtaq Ahmed, Syeda Choudhury, Hannah Chaudhry, Luthfa Rahman, Khayer Chowdhury, Jamal Uddin, Foyzur Rahman, Saira Jamil, Sadiq Kothia, Shoaib Patel.

Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter