Islington councillors’ concerns over Gaza

Islington’s deputy mayor is amongst those urging Labour leader Keir Starmer to support a ceasefire in Gaza as one councillor said she could no longer serve in the party.

By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter

Islington town hall
Islington town hall. Photo: Julia Gregory

Islington’s deputy mayor is amongst those urging Labour leader Keir Starmer to support a ceasefire in Gaza as one councillor said she could no longer serve in the party.

Asima Shaikh  has crossed the floor at Islington Town Hall to serve as an independent over despair after Starmer refused to condemn Israel for cutting off essential supplies to Gaza and back a ceasefire.

Shaikh held a senior role within the council, joining the executive in 2015, a year after she was first elected as a Finsbury Park ward councillor.

She had the portfolio for an inclusive economy and jobs.

Shaikh said she was leaving the party over its failure to “defend humanitarian law” after Israel cut off supplies to Gaza”.

This weekend up to one million people took to the streets of London calling for an end of the conflict -the largest UK protest since Hamas launched its shock attack on Israel last month.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn who is Islington North’s independent MP joined the protest, demanding a ceasefire.

Shaikh’s previous experience includes working in international development in the 1990s and worked in South Africa, Pakistan, India, and Macedonia.

She is amongst more than 20 councillors who have quit Labour over Gaza, including nine at Oxford City Council where the party has lost its majority.

Labour in Islington has a substantial majority of 49. The opposition Green party has three councillors.

Shaikh becomes the second independent councillor in the town hall.

Her colleague Matt Nathan, who represents Clerkenwell, quit Labour after the party blocked Corbyn from standing as its candidate in the next general election.

A Labour party spokesperson said: “We are saddened that Cllr Shaikh has resigned from the Labour Party and, as a result, from the Islington Labour Group.

“Cllr Shaikh has been a great servant to Finsbury Park since being elected, including seven years on the executive where she led our pioneering community wealth building work. We hope she will continue to work with us to deliver on the manifesto we were all elected on in May 2022.”

A quarter of Islington’s Labour councillors have added their names to calls for Keir Starmer to back a ceasefire in Gaza.

They joined 300 councillors urging the party leadership to add to the international calls for an end to hostilities to allow urgent aid to get through.

Deputy mayor Anjna Khurana and the executive member for health and social care Nurullah Turan, and his colleague Michelline Ngongo, who is responsible for children, young people and families, have signed the letter.

Another executive member Santiago Bell-Bradford, who has the inclusive economy and jobs portfolio, also added his voice to the calls for a ceasefire.

The other signatories are Mick Gilgunn, who represents Tollington, Phil Graham, who is a Bunhill councillor, and Clerkenwell councillors Ruth Hayes and Ben Mackmurdie.

Tufnell Park councillor Gulcin Ozdemir and St Mary’s and St James’ councillor and mental health champion Joseph Croft also signed the letter.

They were joined by Barnsbury ward councillor Jilani Chowdhury who chairs the health and care scrutiny committee, St Mary’s and St James’ ward councillor and women and girls champion Saiqa Pandor and Laycock councillor and migrants champion Ilkay Cinko-Oner. The trio have also signed a similar letter from members of the Labour Muslim Network.

They are calling for an urgent ceasefire to save lives and want Hamas to return the Israeli hostages they snatched in raids last month which triggered the escalation of the conflict.

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