Sayeeda Warsi criticises Labour for telling councillors not to attend pro-Palestine events

The Conservative former cabinet minister said Keir Starmer's party had taken the Muslim vote for granted

Baroness Warsi criticised both the Conservatives and Labour for failing to tackle Islamophobia. Reuters
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A Conservative peer and former cabinet minister has criticised the Labour party after it warned its MPs and councillors not to attend pro-Palestine demonstrations.

Sayeeda Warsi, the first Muslim woman to serve in the cabinet, has urged Labour leader Keir Starmer to show more sympathy for the plight of Palestinians.

Ahead of a pro-Palestinian marches last weekend, Labour’s elected representatives were given “strong advice not to attend any of these events” from the party’s General Secretary David Evans.

He said they “will not have the ability to control who they are photographed alongside and this risks threatening the Labour Party's ability to campaign against any form of racism and discrimination”.

In a speech delivered at the University of Leeds, Baroness Warsi criticised both the Conservatives and Labour for failing to tackle Islamophobia.

“Only this week we see reports of the Labour Party banning its councillors and members of Parliament from attending pro-Palestinian marches not others,” she said.

Baroness Warsi said that was despite the party “having spent months before the recess fighting the government to protect the right to protest in the Public Order Act”.

“The Labour party … after years of taking that vote for granted, having received over 80 per cent of the Muslim vote, found itself failing to respond to anti-Muslim racism being experienced by its members," she added.

She said there was “a particular irony” when the government insisted on the observance of “Fundamental British Values”.

When Muslims challenge actions that go against these values “they are demonised, marginalised, excluded from political arenas and treated as outcasts”.

It comes as Labour leader Keir Starmer denied he had backed Israel withholding humanitarian aid from Gaza as he sought to clarify his remarks about the siege after sparking concern.

Mr Starmer said that food, fuel, water and medicines must urgently be allowed to pass into the territory as he acknowledged his earlier remarks caused “distress”.

A number of his councillors have resigned over what they perceived as “horrifying” comments that he was “endorsing a war crime”.

But Mr Starmer argued on Friday that he intended to say Israel has the right to defend itself and retrieve the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza while adhering to international law.

Speaking to broadcasters, the Labour leader said he wanted to “clarify precisely what I was saying” during the “grave and urgent” situation for more than two million Palestinians.

Updated: October 20, 2023, 1:09 PM