Keir Starmer with the newly elected MPs

“It was a straightforward decision to make.” That’s what former Labour councillor Habib Rahman said about his decision to leave the party. “It came to a crunch point,” he told Socialist Worker. “Every one of us has a certain level of tolerance. I don’t see the Labour Party as my loss—I’m their loss. And thousands more people are in the same situation as me.”

Habib is fully endorsing the No Ceasefire No Vote conference hosted by former Labour councillors and left wing activists who are looking to act over Palestine outside of Labour. But Keir Starmer’s murderous position on Gaza wasn’t the defining reason Habib tore his membership up.  He says he was in an “ongoing battle to fight institutional racism” within Labour. 

“It’s been a long process over the last couple of years,” he said. “It was a really terrible and sad moment to leave, especially as a life-long Labour supporter. But there was no other alternative—it’s not the party I joined. It’s gone in a totally different direction under the current leader, pitching itself as right wing as possible.”

Inside Labour, Habib says he was subjected “to hate and Islamophobic abuse”. “I submitted a formal complaint to the party’s complaints body. It found the person guilty but only passed on a 12-month suspension—not complete expulsion. I have seen Labour members expelled for smaller issues than that.”

It’s not just Muslims that Habib thinks aren’t taken seriously by Labour. “There’s disproportionate discrimination. Young women are not supported in taking the next steps from a member to local politics. 

“Neither are people of colour, or people of particular faiths. Elite groups of people only side with elite groups. I will never fit in, but neither will I change nor compromise on my beliefs.”

Despite the damning 2022 Forde report into racism in the party, Habib explained that Labour picks and chooses the discrimination it deals with. “When there was an issue of antisemitism within the Labour Party it was rightly dealt with. I see the Labour party taking one form of discrimination more seriously than another.

“Those who are suffering from abuse and discrimination should be supported. But that’s not been the case and instead the perpetrators have been protected and supported. That’s a really sorry state of affairs.”

Habib joined Labour in 2007 and was first elected as a councillor in 2010. He became mayor for a year in 2021. Alongside being a newly independent councillor, he works for a refugee charity. 

“I thought I could continue to fight and make changes in Labour,” he said. “But I was banging my head against a brick wall. It wears you out.” 

Habib says that while there were internal fights in Labour, he was looking at “the bigger picture”. “In Britain there’s not many people who want to be governed under this clueless and cruel Tory government.

“I was hellbent on getting Labour in charge. But the party hasn’t been on the right track.

“Its stance on the refugee crisis isn’t something I supported. We should be a party that unquestionably welcomes people fleeing persecution, violence and war. 

“We shouldn’t apply limitations. But I believed this fight could be had internally.” The turning point was 7 October. “Starmer has shot himself to the ground in his current position,” he said.

“I don’t see Labour winning the general election with a majority. Starmer has fragmented everything. His single-mindedness and right wing views will cost Labour.”

Habib adds that the damage was done with Starmer’s LBC interview. 

“Who in their right mind, especially as leader of the opposition, says another country has the right to withhold vital resources like energy, food and water? It’s unbelievable. He should have come straight back with an apology, but his attempts haven’t been good enough.”

“Calling for a pause in the bombardment and killing of innocent people is not good enough. A ceasefire isn’t good enough. I want to see an immediate end to the genocide. To me a ceasefire means it could all start again. Palestinians have the right to live in their own land.”

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