Labour loses control of Oldham Council because of its support for the US-UK’s war on Gaza!

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A marcher on a pro-Palestine demonstration condemns Starmer's support for Israel

THE Labour Party has lost control of Oldham Council after losing seats to Independents who support Palestine and are against the Israeli war on Gaza, with the local party leader Arooj Shah trying to deny this was a result of Sir Keir Starmer’s stance on the war in Gaza.

Labour’s majority on Oldham Council, which it has controlled since 2011, had already been whittled down to just one, ahead of Thursday’s elections, thanks to two defections last month.

Councillors Nyla Ibrahim and Akhtar Shoab left the party to sit as independents, reportedly citing Labour’s response to Gaza, with councillor Ibrahim re-elected on Thursday.

Former Conservative, Naveed Chowhan, was also among the independents elected on Thursday, having left his party over Gaza, alongside former Tory councillors Abdul Wahid and Mohammad Irfan.

Labour remains the largest party on Oldham Council with 27 out of 60 seats, while the number of independent councillors has risen to 16. There are also nine Liberal Democrats and eight Conservatives, meaning a coalition of opposition parties could topple the Labour administration.

Shah said the conflict in Gaza was a factor but the loss goes beyond that to toxic politics in the area.

She said Gaza was ‘clearly an issue for anyone with an ounce of humanity in them’ but there had been a ‘pattern of divisiveness’ in Oldham for the last five or six years.

Elsewhere in Greater Manchester, the party retained overall control of Wigan and Tameside.

Shah, the Labour leader of Oldham Council said: ‘The pattern in Oldham is really different.

‘Gaza is clearly an issue for anyone with an ounce of humanity in them, but we’ve asked for an immediate ceasefire right from the start.

‘We had a motion at the council. We did everything we could here on the ground.

‘We care deeply about what is going on in Palestine. We are hurting for those people.

‘But you have to look at the issues and toxicity in Oldham – which goes beyond the last five of six years – there has been a pattern of divisiveness in place which is clear for people to see.’

Labour’s national campaign coordinator, Pat McFadden, has admitted the crisis in Gaza did get raised by voters.

He said: ‘I do think that’s been a factor in some places, I don’t think there’s any point in denying that. It does get raised, and I understand why people have strong feelings about that.’