Gaza stance lands suspension for two Lambeth councillors, while another walks

By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Service

A Labour councillor in Lambeth claims she was left with ‘no choice’ but to resign after defying the local leadership and voting in favour of a motion calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Two of her colleagues have been suspended for their positions on the matter.

Sonia Winifred revealed she had left her job as councillor for Knight’s Hill ward in a post on X yesterday afternoon.

Cllr Winifred said she had made the decision following a local Labour Party disciplinary hearing on Monday. She was reportedly slapped with a three-month suspension by the party at the six-hour meeting.

One Labour insider likened the hearing, which finished at 1am on Tuesday, to a ‘show trial’. Two other Labour councillors who voted in favour of the Green Party motion calling for a ceasefire at the council meeting in January were also handed suspensions at the meeting.

Martin Abrams, a Jewish councillor for Streatham St Leonard’s, was handed an indefinite suspension. Deepak Sardiwal, councillor for Herne Hill and Loughborough Junction, was given a three-month suspension, it has been reported.

Announcing her resignation on X, Ms Winifred wrote: “My actions on January 24 voting FOR the ceasefire motion, resulting in disciplinary hearing on Monday left me no choice but to resign my position on Lambeth council with immediate effect.”

Cllr Abrams said his vote for the ceasefire motion was ‘a matter of conscience’.

Councillor Martin Abrams, who has criticised Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s stance on the Gaza conflict (Picture: Martin Abrams)

In a statement, he wrote: “My great grandparents were persecuted and driven from Eastern Europe over 100 years ago in the pogroms of Kiev and came to this country as refugees with nothing, leaving and losing many close family in the process.

“It is exactly this history of persecution of my close ancestors in Europe over the ages that meant I was brought up to always stand with the oppressed and against oppression and when I say never again I mean never again for everybody.”

Cllr Abrams and Cllr Sardiwal will continue sitting as Labour members on Lambeth council during their suspension, but they will be excluded from the Labour group office and won’t have access to Labour Party resources, among other sanctions.

The Green Party motion brought to the council meeting in January called on Labour leader of the council Claire Holland to write to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour Party leader Keir Starmer urging them to call for a ceasefire.

Green Party councillors Nicole Griffiths and Scott Ainslie voted in favour of the motion, as well as three Labour Party councillors: Cllr Abrams, Cllr Sardiwal and Cllr Winifred and Liberal Democrat councillor Matthew Bryant. Councillor Sarina Da Silva, also Labour, abstained.

The national Labour Party last week called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza for the first time since the outbreak of the conflict.

The Lambeth Labour Group said: “In January, Lambeth council voted against a motion from the Green Party that risked the community cohesion we have here in Lambeth. Lambeth Labour Group took the collective decision to not support the motion as explained in our statement here.

“Four Labour councillors did not vote in line with the Labour Group’s agreed response to the motion. This breaches Labour Party rules, and following an investigation and a group vote, a decision was made to take disciplinary action.

“It is paramount that Labour councillors respect the democratic processes and collective decision making that enables us to function as the ruling group on Lambeth council.”

No date has been set yet for the Knight’s Hill ward by-election.

Pictured top: Sonia Winifred in the council chamber (Picture: Lambeth council)

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