Pressure is mounting on Sir Keir Starmer as a group of 11 Burnley councillors quit the Labour Party over his stance on a ceasefire in Gaza
The leader of Burnley Council and 10 other councillors have resigned from the Labour Party over Sir Keir Starmer's refusal to push for a ceasefire in Gaza.
The Labour leader said in a speech at Chatham House on Tuesday that while he understood calls for a pause in the fighting, he did "not believe that it is the correct position now".
It has proved a divisive decision for his party as Shadow ministers Yasmin Qureshi, Jess Phillips, and Imran Hussain are among Labour figures who have joined calls for an end to conflict, where at least 9,700 Palestinians and 1,400 Israelis have been killed.
Almost a third of Labour MPs, including 15 of Sir Keir's frontbenchers, have publicly expressed their support for a ceasefire.
Released on Sunday, a statement on behalf of Burnley Council leader Afrasiab Anwar, 10 other Labour councillors, and two community activists read: "Since the onset of the violence in Gaza-Israel, we, as a collective, have consistently used our roles as councillors to advocate on behalf of our communities to bring peace by urging the leadership to call for a release of all hostages and an immediate ceasefire."
"Every life holds equal value and indiscriminate bombing and collective punishment of innocent civilians is a clear violation of International Law."
The statement then lists the ways in which the group have tried to convey this message to "various levels of the Labour Party," including urging Sir Keir for a ceasefire and meeting with the Shadow Home Secretary.
"Despite our persistent endeavours, it has become apparent that Keir Starmer and the leadership either cannot or will not heed our concerns or acknowledge the sentiments within our communities.
"In his speech at Chatham House, he neglected to call for ceasefire which would have alleviated the suffering of the innocent people of Gaza and Israel.
"In response to our calls for him to resign he responded that the individual concerns of members are not his focus, further illustrating that he does not value the voice of the grassroots of the party.
"Regrettably, after exhausting every available option, we have arrived at the conclusion that the current party stance on Palestine does not align with the values we hold dear.
"Consequently, we have decided to resign from the Labour party with immediate effect, feeling that our place within the party is untenable given its present positon."
The statement continues to say the councillors will continue to represent their communities as Independent Councillors.
A Labour spokesperson said: "Labour fully understands calls for a ceasefire. Everybody wants to see an end to this cycle of violence and suffering, we need to see hostages released and aid getting to those most in need.
"But a ceasefire now will only freeze this conflict and would leave hostages in Gaza and Hamas with the infrastructure and capability to carry out the sort of attack we saw on October 7.
"International law must be followed at all times and innocent civilians must be protected. Labour is calling for humanitarian pauses in the fighting.
"This is the best and most realistic way to address the humanitarian emergency in Gaza and is a position shared by our major allies, in the US and the EU."
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