A Blackburn Labour councillor has quit the party over the party’s stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict on Thursday (October 26) night.

Blackburn Executive Member of Adult Social Care & Health, Cllr Mustafa Desai, intends to continue as an independent councillor but said he could no longer be a member of the party.

He accused leader Keir Starmer of failing to call for a ceasefire, not calling strongly enough for aid routes to be opened, and for “not condemning atrocities being committed by Israel”.

Roe Lee ward’s Cllr Sajid Ali is also believed to have resigned and intends to work as an independent councillor.

Since fighting kicked off - following terrorist attacks by Hamas militants which killed hundreds of civilians in Israel on October 7 - Israeli defence forces have been bombarding Gaza with missiles.

Israel says the strikes are targeted at Hamas strongholds, but thousands of civilians, many of whom are children, have been killed by the blasts.

Israel also cut off water, food and fuel to the poverty stricken enclave - said to be a breach of international law - but has this week begun to allow humanitarian trucks to bring aid to people in Gaza.

In a letter to Cllr Phil Riley, Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, Cllr Desai, who represents Little Harwood, Sunnybower & Whitebirk ward, said: "The ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict has and continues to claim many many innocent civilian lives.

”Yes I condemn the attack by Hamas however I also condemn the disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks on innocent Palestinian people and civilian infrastructure, the displacement of millions and the many breaches of international law - all lives are valuable.

"I have written to Keir Starmer the leader of our party on numerous occasions and continued dialogue with our MP in order to pressure the leader in seeking appropriate responses and action - there has been nothing forthcoming. 

"My ask was straightforward; a) make a statement for immediate ceasefire b) exert pressure for the aid corridors to be opened allowing essential supplies to reach the needy c) condemn the atrocities being committed by Israel.

"Today I attended a meeting with the deputy leader of the party Angela Rayner and despite the calls from myself and other elected members in attendance, the party narrative that was played out lacked empathy towards the humanitarian cause.

"There is no appetite from the party leadership to adopt a humanitarian stance or even callout for a 'ceasefire'.

"I am a firm believer in trying to bring about change from within however when all avenues are exhausted and anything one says lands on deaf ears then a call has to be made.

"I cannot continue being a member of a party whose leadership are unwilling to callout atrocities against a civilian population and so it is with a heavy heart I am tendering my resignation from the Labour party with immediate effect.

"My reasons for joining the party many years ago was because the core values aligned with mine, it is immensely sad and distressing to see that over the recent years under 'New Labour' those values have continued to erode; Labour is no longer a party for the working class people.

"I will endeavour to support residents as I have always done to the best of my ability."

Labour’s official stance on the matter, as set out by leader Sir Keir is that the party supports an idea for humanitarian “pauses”, backed by the United Nations and the USA.

These would be designed to temporarily stop the bombardments by Israel, and halt rockets from inside Gaza, to allow aid to enter, civilians to flee and hostages seized by Hamas to be released.

This stance says that calling for a complete ceasefire would deny Israel its legitimate right to pursue Hamas after the group massacred about 1,400 people in Israel on 7 October, almost all civilians, and took more than 200 hostages.

Hamas today claimed around 50 of those hostages have been killed in Israeli air strikes, but this claim is unverified.

Cllr Sajid Ali, who is also believed to have quit the party, has been contacted for comment.