Bedford Borough Councillor resigns from party over Gaza conflict

Cllr Mohammed Mahboob Din
Cllr Mohammed Mahboob Din

A Bedford Borough Councillor has resigned from the Labour Party saying it “no longer stands for the principles and values” it did when he became a member after the Labour Leader failed to call for an outright ceasefire in Gaza.

Cllr Mohammed Mahboob Din was elected as a Labour councillor for Queens Park in May 2023 and says he will continue to serve the people he represents as an independent.

Speaking exclusively to the Bedford Independent, Cllr Mahboob Din says he has tendered his resignation from the Labour Party with immediate effect.

“Amongst other reasons, this decision has been prompted by my deep concerns of the ongoing situation in Palestine and recent comments made by the leader of the Labour Party,” said Cllr Mahboob Din.

“It is a decision I have given much consideration to and it is not a decision I have taken lightly.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has come under fire recently for not calling for a ceasefire after Israel began military action in retaliation for attacks by Hamas on multiple sites in Isreal on 7 October, which led to 1,400 Israelis being killed.

The terrorist organisation Hamas also kidnapped over 200 people which it has continued to hold hostage in Gaza

The United Nations (UN) has reported that since Israel began its “assault on Hamas” over 9,000 people in Gaza have been killed, which the Associated Press reports includes 3,600 children, in air and artillery strikes by the Israeli military.

More than 15,273 people have also been injured and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) says around 1.5 million people in the region have been displaced, with up to 600,000 seeking refuge in UN emergency shelters.

70 UN workers are reportedly among those who have died as a result of Israeli bombardment in Gaza.

Palestinian civilians are also short of food, fuel, drinking water and medicine. “Water is being used as a weapon of war,” said Juliette Touma, a spokesperson for the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA, according to reports from news agency Reuters.

Keir Starmer
Leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer MP

“Balanced” speech

In a speech at the Chatham House foreign policy think tank on Tuesday (31 October), Labour leader Sir Starmer said that he did not think an Israeli ceasefire in Gaza “is the correct position”

He said: ” … a ceasefire always freezes any conflict in the state where it currently lies” and that “Hamas would be emboldened and start preparing for future violence immediately.”

Instead, Mr Starmer believes, ” … the only credible approach that has any chance of achieving what we all want to see in Gaza – the urgent alleviation of Palestinian suffering. Aid distributed quickly. Space to get hostages out.”

He also added that over time, ” … we must move to cessation of fighting as quickly as possible” and “… the reality is that neither the long-term security of Israel nor long-term justice for Palestine can be delivered by bombs and bullets.”

Previously, dozens of Labour MPs, including some on the Labour front bench, had opposed their leader and called for Israel to stop its offensive on Gaza. However, some have said this recent speech by Sir Starmer was “balanced and helped address some of the concerns from members.”

Bedford Mosques

Through Islam Bedford, 12 Mosques and organisations in and around Bedford issued a joint ‘demand’ for the UK Government to “protect civilians and push for [an] immediate ceasefire.

They said, ” … The targeting of all civilians, whether Palestinian or Israeli, is equally deplorable.” Adding, ” … There is an opportunity now to play a positive, balanced and constructive role to heal the missteps of its past.

“The UK government must achieve tangible results for British Muslims, Jews and Christians with links to the Holy land that want a lasting peace, … there must be a clear acknowledgement and condemnation of the persistent violations of international.”

With this in mind, Sir Starmer’s further comments have not mollified Cllr Mahboob Din who represents a Bedford community that is over 40% Muslim.

“I was proud to be elected for the first time as a councillor for the Queens Park ward in May 2023. I stood for the election to become a voice for our local community and to represent the people I have lived and worked alongside for over 25 years,” he said.

Cllr Mahboob Din (r) with former Labour colleagues Mohammed Masud and Nesreen Akhtar. Image supplied by the Bedford and Kempston Labour Party
Cllr Mahboob Din (r) with former Labour colleagues Mohammed Masud and Nesreen Akhtar. Image supplied by the Bedford and Kempston Labour Party

“I never considered the Labour party would make it so difficult for me to represent my community, or I would be made to feel so bad for having an opinion different to the Labour group.

“However, recently a lot has changed for the Labour party and I feel that it no longer stands for the same principles and values it did when I became a member many years ago.

“I will now continue to proudly serve as an independent councillor in Queens Park for the remainder of the term. I would like to thank everyone that voted for me, and for giving me the opportunity to represent our community.

“I am confident this is the best decision and will enable me to be a true representative of our community.

“Those who voted for me because I was a Labour candidate, I promise to continue to serve our local community and will not let you down.”

In a statement to the Bedford Independent, Councillor Carl Meader, Bedford Borough Labour Group Leader said: “We are sorry to learn that Cllr Mahboob Din has decided to resign from the Labour Party and therefore will no longer be a member of Bedford Borough Labour Group.

“Our Labour Councillors will continue to put the needs of residents first as we have always done.”

Cllr Mohammed Mahboob Din’s resignation comes after several Labour councillors from other councils across the country also resigned from the party and all 31 Labour councillors in Sheffield supported a council motion calling for a ceasefire, according to Novara Media.