UK Labour councillor resigns amid Gaza ceasefire rebellion

UK Labour councillor resigns amid Gaza ceasefire rebellion
Labour Councillor Sonia Winifred announced her resignation, amid rebellion in Lambeth Labour due to Gaza ceasefire motion support.
4 min read
29 February, 2024
Former mayor of Lambeth Christopher Wellbelove with Cllr Sonia Winifred (R) and Emita Griffith during the Windrush70 celebration on 23rd June 2018 [Getty]

A UK Labour councillor resigned on Tuesday over a South London council voting session on a Gaza ceasefire motion put forward by the Green Party in January. 

Knight's Hill Councillor Sonia Winifred made the announcement in a Tuesday post on X. 

"My actions on Wednesday 24 January voting FOR the ceasefire motion, resulting in disciplinary hearing on Monday 26 February left me no choice but to resign my position on Lambeth Council as Councillor for Knights Hill Ward with immediate effect," Winifred said. 

Lambeth Labour’s Chief Whip Councillor Scarlett O’Hara for Brixton Windrush instructed all Labour Councillors to vote against the ceasefire motion, Brixton Buzz reported.

The Green Party’s ceasefire motion demanded "an immediate ceasefire and the end to human rights atrocities in the Israel/Palestine conflict". 

Winifred told The New Arab that the Labour group was "misled" in voting down the proposal.

"I believe that as Labour Councillors we agree a contract to follow the Whip. Therefore, if the Whip is broken then the consequences should be faced. On this occasion however, in Lambeth I believe Labour Group were misled when whipped to vote against the motion calling for immediate ceasefire and an end to hostilities in Gaza/Israel conflict at Full Council on Wednesday 24 January," she said.  

Winifred also highlighted Labour's shift in favour of a ceasefire in recent weeks, amid growing public pressure.

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"Equally important is the fact that the Labour Party is now calling for a ceasefire. On that basis disciplinary procedures should have been abandoned.  To pursue this disciplinary meeting and subject us all to a 6-hour meeting on Monday 26 February is quite frankly beyond comprehension," Winifred said.
"More generally, penalising local voices calling for ceasefire in Gaza goes against freedom of speech and the right to protest. A ceasefire saves lives on all sides."    

Two other councillors in neighbouring London boroughs also supported the Green proposal. 

Martin Abrams, councillor for Streatham St Leonard’s, has since been suspended indefinitely from Lambeth Council’s Labour group, while Deepak Sardiwal for Herne Hill and Loughborough Junction was also penalised with a three-month suspension. 

Abrams responded with a statement on X: "My vote for the ceasefire motion was a matter of conscience for me." 

"My great grandparents were persecuted and driven from Eastern Europe over 100 years ago in the pogroms of Kiev and came to this country as refugees with nothing, leaving and losing many close family in the process.

"It is exactly this history of persecution of my close ancestors in Europe over the ages that meant I was brought up to always stand with the oppressed and against oppression and when I say never again, I mean never again: for everybody." 

Councillor Sarina Da Dilva for Waterloo and South Bank was suspended for two months after ignoring the party whip and abstaining from voting.

Lambeth Labour Group has since reiterated its stance, accusing the Green Party of creating disunity among communities.

"In January, Lambeth Council voted against a motion from the Green Party that risked the community cohesion we have here in Lambeth," the group told The New Arab

"Lambeth Labour Group took the collective decision to not support the motion as explained in our statement. 

"Four Labour councillors did not vote in line with the Labour Group’s agreed response to the motion. This breaches Labour Party rules, and following an investigation and a group vote, a decision was made to take disciplinary action. 

"It is paramount that Labour councillors respect the democratic processes and collective decision making that enables us to function as the ruling group on Lambeth Council. It is [this] process that will see us approve a balanced budget at council tonight, that supports residents through the cost-of-living crisis and protects them from the impact of Conservative cuts to local services." 

Over 100 councillors have resigned since the start of Israel's war on Gaza over the party's support for the onslaught and refusal to call for a ceasefire.

The party has since revised its stance on a Gaza ceasefire, adding a counter-amendment to the Scottish National Party's motion last week.

The Labour amendment called for an immediate end to the fighting but removed the original SNP motion's mention of an end to Israel's "collective punishment" of Palestinians.