Pendle Borough Council leader and 20 councillors resign from Labour party over 'bullying' claims

20 councillors have resigned from the Labour party over "bullying" and "suppressing fairness and free speech". Credit: PA Images

Twenty councillors and their leader have resigned from the Labour party after accusing its national leadership of bullying.

The group in Pendle, Lancashire, say the party is "targeting local councillors" by "preventing them from standing for elections" and "using aggressive bullying tactics to suppress fairness and free speech".

The councillors, including Pendle Borough leader Asjad Mahmood, will form independent groups on Pendle Borough Council, Brierfield Town Council, and Nelson Town Council.

Councillor Mahmood, now the leader of the independent group, said, "I, along with my colleagues, were elected by local residents to represent them in the council chamber.

"As a Labour Councillor, I have always felt that the party’s policies were aligned with my own beliefs and those of the constituents who have honoured me with their votes.

"Sadly, over a recent period, senior party officials have attempted to impose their ideas at a local level. I was elected to serve the public, not party officials."

The Pendle councillors will stand as independents. Credit: ITV News

Councillor Yvonne Tennant added: "At a time when 14 years of Tory cuts are affecting local people across Pendle, the Labour Party leadership should be allowing local hard-working councillors the opportunity to challenge the Tories.

"Instead, colleagues are being hindered from fulfilling their roles."

Among those who have quit the Labour party Councillor Mohammed Iqbal who was suspended from the party for 18 months over claims he made antisemitic comments at a meeting.

Mr Iqbal, who denies the claims, said: "I joined the Labour Party over 30 years ago and have always been encouraged to speak out on issues.

"However, senior figures within the party are attempting to stifle free speech and threaten dedicated councillors with removal as candidates.

"I, for one, cannot stand by and allow this to happen. The bullying needs to stop.”

The resignations come six months after the leader of Pendle and Burnley councils called on Sir Keir Starmer to resign over his failure to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

A Labour Party Spokesperson said: "The Labour Party's focus is on winning the General Election so we can improve the lives of those we are elected to serve.”

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