Second Haringey councillor quits Labour over Starmer’s stance on Israel

Former cabinet member for community safety Mark Blake follows Lotte Collette out of the party but will continue as an independent member, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Haringey Civic Centre and (inset) Mark Blake
Haringey Civic Centre and (inset) Mark Blake

A second Haringey Labour councillor has resigned amid a growing backlash over the party leadership’s stance on the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Mark Blake, who represents Fortis Green ward, said “unforgivable” comments made by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer on the situation in the Gaza Strip, and his failure to call for a ceasefire, had led him to quit the party.

The Labour Party leader has faced mounting criticism since an LBC interview on 11th October in which he said Israel had the right to do “everything that it can” to get hostages taken by Hamas back “safe and sound”.

When questioned by presenter Nick Ferrari about whether cutting off power and water to the Gaza Strip was “appropriate”, Starmer said: “I think that Israel does have that right. It is an ongoing situation”, adding: “Obviously, everything should be done within international law.”

After several Labour councillors in other parts of the country quit in protest, a spokesperson for Starmer suggested he had in fact been answering a previous question on Israel’s right to defend itself.

But in a resignation statement issued yesterday, Cllr Blake slammed Starmer’s comments as “unforgivable, and contravening international law”.

Cllr Blake warned that in times of war and conflict, leaders “need to be careful with their words and ensure they do not engage in language that reinforces divisions and can escalate tensions”.

He added: “History teaches us that military solutions are usually unobtainable or not sustainable. A ceasefire leading to a negotiated settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis should be the aim of all nations facilitated by the UN.

“This may seem a million miles away but is and always has been the only route to a genuine sustainable peace. A ceasefire must be the first prerequisite to a pathway to negotiations to ensure the safe return of the civilian hostages and the provision of the essentials of life for the people of Gaza.

“This should be what the Labour leader and his team should be pushing for, however David Lammy and Sir Keir Starmer won’t even raise it. It is therefore after a great deal of thought and consideration that I am resigning from the Labour Party.”

Cllr Blake said his thoughts were with all the families who had suffered loss over the last fortnight, adding that he will continue to serve Fortis Green as an independent councillor.

His resignation comes amid growing disquiet among Labour ranks over Starmer’s stance on the conflict, with more than 150 councillors yesterday urging the leadership to call for an immediate ceasefire.

Haringey councillor Lotte Collett quit the Labour Party last week, condemning Starmer’s remarks and his failure to call for a ceasefire. She will also serve as an independent councillor.

Starmer wrote to Labour councillors last week setting out the leadership’s position on the conflict. He said Israel had the “right to defend herself, to keep its people safe and bring hostages home”, and this “must be conducted in accordance with international law”.

Yesterday (Wednesday 25th), the Labour leader issued a further statement on Twitter, saying the amount of aid and essential utilities getting into Gaza was “completely insufficient” and calling for supplies of aid, fuel, water, electricity and medicines to be “urgently ramped up”

Starmer added: “It is incumbent on all parties to make sure that the aid and utilities don’t just get in but reach those who need them. That’s why we’ve said deliveries need to be regular, fast and safe. We […] support humanitarian pauses.

“In the long term there can only be a political solution to this crisis, which is why we need to restart the hard work of talks for a two-state solution of a viable Palestinian state alongside a safe and secure Israel.”

Cllr Blake was elected as a Haringey Labour councillor in 2014. He has sat on a number of committees and served as cabinet member for community safety between 2018 and 2021.

Haringey Labour group said in a statement: “We are sad to see Cllr Mark Blake leave the Labour Party and Haringey Labour Group, which has been a difficult decision for him to make. We thank Mark for work he has done for our residents as a Labour ward councillor and previous cabinet member.

“As grief and worry still continues to impact many of our communities, the council is committed to ensuring we bring our communities together, stand united against hate, and support and reassure our communities where we can.”

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