Labour losing members over Gaza stance

Despite the membership losses, however, Labour still holds a commanding lead in UK opinion polling…reports Asian Lite News

The UK’s main opposition party has suffered a sharp fall in membership over its policies on Gaza and green investment, The Guardian reported.

Figures from the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee show that more than 23,000 people have canceled their membership over the last two months.

It follows controversies over the party leadership’s refusal to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, and a decision to abandon a commitment to spend $35 billion on a green investment plan.

Despite the membership losses, however, Labour still holds a commanding lead in UK opinion polling, suggesting it will take government at the next election, ending 14 years of Conservative rule.

David Evans, the party’s general secretary, revealed in a report this week that membership had fallen from 390,000 in January this year to 366,604 at the latest count.

Membership peaked at more than 532,000 in 2019. Party insiders say that the drop has been caused by anger among Muslim and green supporters.

Party leader Keir Starmer’s weeks-long refusal to call for a ceasefire in Gaza last year resulted in more than 70 Labour councilors resigning from the party.

A senior Labour figure said of the latest results: “It is a big fall in just two months. People were surprised, even taken aback.”

Starmer has also faced a rebellion from Labour MPs over his stance on Gaza, including on the frontbench, with Jess Phillips, then shadow minister for domestic violence, resigning in November.

She said at the time: “I have to use my voice to try, and wherever possible, move the dial. And look, I think this dial will move. I think that it won’t be too long before the US and the UK feel that the (Israeli) military action is achieving nothing.”

Momentum, a Labour-allied grassroots political campaign opposed to Starmer, said that the party was taking its supporters for granted.

A statement from the movement, which supported previous leader Jeremy Corbyn, said: “From a failure to oppose Israel’s brutal war on Gaza to morale-damaging U-turns and the mistreatment of Diane Abbott, Keir Starmer is alienating swathes of Labour’s core support.”

Over 115 MPs urge fresh pressure on Israel over Gaza

More than 115 MPs in the UK have demanded a series of government measures to safeguard Palestinian civilians in Gaza and place new political pressure on Israel.

In a letter to Foreign Secretary David Cameron dated March 29, backbench parliamentarians from all parties urged the government to take immediate action over the “alarming” situation in Gaza.

Among the demands are the full restoration of UK funding to UNRWA, as well as renewed political pressure on Israel to enable the unimpeded access of humanitarian aid into the enclave.

“Turning the taps back on” in the enclave is “vital,” the letter says, warning that Israel should suffer “diplomatic consequences” if it fails to abide by international law.

The government should also demand that “Israel must not use starvation as a weapon of war” and abide by the provisional measures set by the International Court of Justice in January this year, the letter says.

Any shift in British foreign policy toward Israel must include a deadline that, if passed without changes, would result in “serious consequences” for the relationship between the two countries.

Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, described the letter as a potential “turning point” in the UK’s relationship with Israel.

Since the outbreak of violence on Oct. 7, grassroots political campaigns across the UK have sought to pressure the government into calling for a ceasefire and condemning Israel’s war.

The letter is “evidence of huge anger in political circles” in the UK, Doyle added, warning that it also represented a failure of the government to represent the views of the electorate.

But government communication is fast changing tone in statements regarding the Israel-Hamas war, he said.

The letter warns that the UK’s own efforts to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza have been compromised by Israel.

“It is alarming that Israel has delayed UK aid into Gaza by delaying permissions to cross the border and by preventing the necessary staff from obtaining visas,” it says.

“Further UK pressure on the Israeli government to let aid in, open the Port of Ashdod, and ‘turn the taps back on’ in Gaza is vital.”

The civilian population in the enclave is “on the brink of famine,” the letter adds, warning that the threshold for famine may already have been met in northern sections of Gaza, with 27 children and three adults having fallen victim to starvation or dehydration.

“People have resorted to eating bird seed, animal feed and grass … and digging down into the soil to access water pipes for drinking and washing,” the letter warns.

The UK government, in an earlier response to an MP, officially blamed the failure of humanitarian aid reaching Gaza on “arbitrary denials by the Israeli government.”

The government warned in February that Israel would be in breach of international humanitarian law if it denied food and water to the enclave.

The letter also follows a significant vote in the UN Security Council calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, with the UK voting in favor.

A looming invasion of Rafah has forced the UK government to change its language and tone toward Israel, said Doyle.

Any incursion into the southernmost area of Gaza, where almost the entire population of the enclave is now sheltering, would result in a “reaction” from the UK and European powers, he added.

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