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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Labour councillor quits over Palestine support

Newcastle Labour councillor quits party and claims he was 'victimised' over Palestine support

A Labour councillor in Newcastle has quit the party and claims he has been “victimised” over his support for Palestine.

Cllr Rahman, who has been a councillor in the city centre Monument ward since 2019, alleged that he has been “specifically targeted for my pro-Palestinian views, religious beliefs and ethnicity”.

He has also announced that he will be running journalist and prominent Muslim activist Yvonne Ridley’s campaign as an independent to try and unseat city Labour MP Chi Onwurah at the next general election.

Cllr Rahman’s exit follows that of former lord mayor Habib Rahman, who quit Labour in January and accused the party of a “culture of institutional racism”.

Declaring that he had quit Labour during a pro-Palestine rally at which Ms Ridley and George Galloway spoke last Friday, he claimed to have been subjected to “six months of slurs, slander, allegations, bullying and personal attacks both from the Labour Party and other activists”.

Cllr Rahman added: “I have been specifically targeted for my pro-Palestinian views, religious beliefs and ethnicity.”

The city council has come under pressure from pro-Palestine activists in recent months to take a stronger stance in support of a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza war.

A petition signed by more than 4,000 people which called on councillors to “speak out in support of an immediate ceasefire in Gaza” was presented last December, while two council meetings since have had to be evacuated due to protests.

Cllr Rahman, whose term as a councillor is due to end after next week’s local elections, added: “It is absolutely disgraceful to victimise Palestinian campaigners for their stance on a humanitarian crisis, where thousands of innocent people including thousands of children have been killed.

“I have helped organise the biggest Palestinian demonstrations the North East has ever seen, I have been to national demonstrations where nearly one million people have been on the streets, I have helped organised meetings, rallies and activities, I have organised the petition to Newcastle City Council and the public questions to council.

“I do not regret a single thing I have done and would not change anything I have done. I am proud of taking a stand on Palestine, this is a moment in history and I can say I have done everything I can do to support the Palestinian people.”

Following months of rows and threats of rebellion over the issue, Labour called for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in Gaza for the first time this February.

Cllr Rahman, who is a paramedic, had hoped to be seeking re-election next week.

But the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) understands that the Monument councillor was initially blocked from standing to reclaim his seat by a local Labour panel in February.

Despite successfully appealing against that verdict, which was described in an email seen by the LDRS as “irrational”, in March he was then unsuccessful at a constituency selection meeting held 24 hours later.

He claims that he had been unable to rally enough support among local members in such a short time, with Nabeela Ali ultimately chosen as the party’s candidate to contest the Monument seat this year.

A Labour Spokesperson said: “The Party’s Local Government Selections are governed by clear processes set out in the rule book. These procedures were followed during local government selections in Newcastle.”

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