Councillors have agreed to demand their national party call for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas at a boisterous public meeting in Blackburn

Members of the public were invited to an ‘emergency meeting’ at Bangor Street Community Centre in Blackburn on Wednesday night where they could air their grievances to local councillors.

The meeting, organised by local residents, saw people attend from across the borough with more than 100 people packed into the conference room.

Some attendees expressed their concerns over the stance taken by the national Labour leadership, which has supported Israel's 'right to defend itself in accordance with international law', condemned Hamas, and reasserted its support for a two-state solution to bring the decades of violence in Israel and Palestine to an end.

The meeting was attended by Blackburn with Darwen Council leader Cllr Phil Riley and deputy leader Cllr Quesir Mahmood, as well as a dozen more Labour councillors.

Altaf ‘Tiger’ Patel, who resigned from the Conservative Party at a pro-Palestine rally on Sunday, was also in attendance.

The audience was told that Blackburn's Labour MP Kate Hollern was in Canada.

At the meeting, Cllr Riley told attendees he would speak to the national party and ask for Labour to call for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, and to work to get safe routes for humanitarian aid to enter Gaza as soon as possible.

Some attendees expressed their anger that councillors had not spoken out against Israel's bombardment of Gaza, which Israel has said are targeted assaults on Hamas sites.

Thousands of innocent civilians in Israel and Gaza have been killed or injured in the violence since Hamas militants carried out terrorist attacks in Israel on October 7.

This was refuted by both the Cllr Riley and Cllr Mahmood, who told the audience they had made their feelings known of the strength of feeling within the community.

A number of attendees also called on councillors to resign from their party over its purported stance over the conflict.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Cllr Riley said he had not come to the meeting as a politician, nor to ‘get any votes’, and was equally concerned over deaths in the region.

There was a promise to draft a letter, which would be agreed upon by members of the local community, to be sent to Labour headquarters.

One attendee pointed out: “You said you would be writing to headquarters. Why has it taken a meeting of this nature for you to do this?”

Some councillors were criticised for not attending the pro-Palestine rally on Sunday.

On October 14, Labour's General Secretary advised elected representatives not to attend protests or demonstrations "in the interests of member safety and to avoid placing colleagues in a position where they may share a platform with, or are close to, individuals who threaten to undermine the values and principles of the Labour Party".

At one point an argument has broke out within those gathered and police officers had to be called. The two officers remained at the venue but no action was taken.

The strength of feeling and the calls for resignation were repeated by some attendees, while another told the audience it would make ‘little difference’ if the councillors walked away, as they had a better chance to apply pressure by staying on.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Cllr Riley said: “This is conversation on our influence on foreign affairs. We have not got any.

"People vote for us for the things we do in the town, that is why 99 per cent of the telephone calls all my colleagues get are about local issues. Things they want us to do in the town. That is why we get elected.

“Personally, I am happy to continue to do those things to the best of my ability and so are my colleagues to the best of their ability.

“When we get to an election it is entirely up to you the judgement you decide to make.”

Few of the other councillors present made any other contributions to the debate other than to respond to points made in the audience, directed at them.

Adnan Hussain who chaired the meeting, said afterwards: “Councillors from the Labour Party in Blackburn were called and attended the meeting.

"There was unanimous agreement amongst all those present, councillors and the public alike, that what is happening is Gaza right now is absolutely catastrophic. 

“The councillors shared with us the steps they were taking to raise the community's concerns with the Labour Party.

“The community felt that what was being done was not enough, given the gravity on the ground [in Gaza].

"Because of the urgency of what's happening in Gaza, we the community felt that a tougher approach must be taken by the representatives of the Labour Party, present. 

“It was agreed on by all that the councillors would walk away from the meeting and write to headquarters asking for a call for an immediate ceasefire, and the opening up of safe corridors in order for vital aid to reach the besieged Gazans.”