A former Labour Party official in Scotland has resigned from his role after being told not to discuss the situation in Gaza at a local branch meeting. He said the leadership’s “gag order” was indicative of Keir Starmer’s fear of democracy.
Why did Peter Duffy quit?
Peter Duffy was the secretary of Glasgow Kelvin’s constituency Labour Party (CLP) until Thursday, when he quit along with nine others, including Baroness Pauline Bryan. He said the local branch had intended to debate a motion on Gaza at their monthly meeting, but received an email from Scottish Labour saying no branches were to discuss the issue under any circumstances. He said he felt the party leadership were shutting down debate and wanted to “neutralise and control things”.
What was the motion on Gaza?
The motion that Duffy and his colleagues wanted to debate was calling for an end to the military bombardment, the release of hostages, a humanitarian corridor, and the ending of the siege of Gaza. He said these were not controversial demands, but rather things that many people were calling for. He said he did not agree with the stance that the party leadership had taken on Israel and Gaza, but that was not the key point. He said he wanted a broad, democratic, and member-led party that could have a free and open debate on these kinds of issues.
What did the party leadership say?
The party leadership issued guidance to CLPs last week in the wake of the war between Israel and Hamas. David Evans, UK Labour’s general secretary, warned members against attending pro-Palestine protests and reportedly barred Labour council leaders from attending. He also said that motions that were in danger of bringing the party into disrepute would not be allowed. A Scottish Labour spokesperson said the party had repeatedly and unequivocally condemned the actions of Hamas and called for the free flow of medicine, food, water and electricity into Gaza. They also said they believed in a two-state solution that delivered security, peace and freedom for all.
How did Keir Starmer respond to Israel’s actions?
Keir Starmer, the leader of UK Labour, faced growing discontent in some quarters with his stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict. He made a controversial comment on LBC radio earlier this week, in which he appeared to suggest Israel had the right to cut off water and electricity to Gaza. He said: “I think that Israel does have that right.” Party spin doctors have tried to walk back his comment by saying he was answering another question about Israel’s right to defend itself. However, Starmer has not publicly rectified or clarified his statement.
What are the implications of this resignation?
The resignation of Duffy and the rest of the executive of the Kelvin CLP is a sign of the rift within Labour over its position on Israel and Palestine. It also shows the frustration of some members with Starmer’s leadership style, which they see as authoritarian and undemocratic. Duffy said he would remain a member of the party because he thought there were a lot of things to fight for in this country and Gaza was just one of them. However, he said he was not willing to volunteer his time to run a party that did not allow debate on one of the most important things happening in the world right now.