Councillors who quit Labour over ‘authoritarian’ stance form independent group

The three members said they each have ‘specific differences’ with Labour, including allegations of gerrymandering, reports Local Democracy Reporter Simon Allin

Former Haringey Labour councillors who quit the party over its stance on Israel and Palestine have founded a new political group.

The Independent Socialist Group has been formed by councillors who claim the party is becoming “ever more authoritarian” and believe they can best represent residents “free of the shackles of the Labour whip”.

It currently has three members – Mark Blake, Mary Mason and group leader Lotte Collett – all of whom recently resigned over the Labour leadership’s failure to call for a ceasefire in the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

In an announcement issued yesterday, the group said: “Labour nationally, and in London, is becoming ever more authoritarian towards its members, a move that does not put it in a good place in local government or indeed when it holds the keys to 10 Downing Street.

“Labour should stand for the devolution of power and authority, locally and nationally, not the centralisation of power in an authoritarian leadership group. Labour should trust its members and the people, which is not currently the case.”

Each of the group members is said to have their “specific differences” with Labour under Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership, including the exclusion of Jeremy Corbyn from the party, the “abandonment” of key progressive pledges, and allegations of gerrymandering in the selection of Labour candidates for the local elections in Haringey last year.

The group said matters were brought to a head by the most recent events in Palestine and Israel, accusing Starmer of failing to condemn Israeli actions “as mounting breaches of international law are occurring”.

Although Starmer has called for Israel’s defence to be carried out in accordance with international law, he has stopped short of backing a ceasefire and instead called for humanitarian pauses to allow aid into Gaza and civilians to evacuate. But the socialist group described such calls as a “fig leaf”.

The gerrymandering allegations, which are denied by Haringey Labour, relate to claims that Labour’s local campaign forum covering the borough was sidelined by rightwingers in the council chamber and the London regional office of the Labour Party, with the regional office taking over its functions and favouring more right-wing candidates.

The group also alleged Labour had “ignored” all the recommendations made by barrister Martin Forde following an investigation into allegations of bullying, racism and sexism within the party. Earlier this year, a Labour spokesperson said many of the recommendations had already been implemented and work was ongoing.

The Independent Socialist Group will join the Liberal Democrats as an opposition group on Haringey Council. The recent resignations, together with the expulsion of Cllr Joy Wallace last year, have cut the Labour group’s majority on the council from 43 seats following the last local elections to 35.

Haringey Labour said in a statement that the Labour Party “has a robust selection process to ensure that our candidates reflect the high standards local people expect and deserve”, adding: “All Haringey Labour councillors were selected in a transparent, proper, and fair process that followed Labour Party procedures.”

The statement continued: “Since our election victory in May 2022, Haringey’s Labour councillors have been focused on delivering our manifesto and supporting our residents through the cost-of-living crisis which has caused such damage to our people and our community […]

“With a strong Labour majority on Haringey Council, we will continue to serve our residents as Labour councillors to make Haringey a greener, safer, and fairer place for all. That is, after all, what we were elected to do.

“Politics is about purpose and it is about commitment – our purpose is to deliver real results and our commitment is to our residents in Haringey. We are focused not on gestures but on action and putting our community and its people first.

“The right and proper thing for Haringey’s former Labour councillors to do is resign immediately and let local people decide who represents them.”

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