Three Hackney councillors dramatically quit Labour to form independent group

L-R: Cllrs Penny Wrout, Claudia Turbet-Delof and Fliss Premru. Photograph: courtesy Hackney Independent Socialist Group

Three Hackney councillors have sensationally resigned from the Labour party to form their own independent group.

Cllrs Claudia Turbet-Delof, Penny Wrout and Fliss Premru fired an excoriating parting shot, claiming Hackney Labour is “stifled by a lack of internal democracy, transparency and scrutiny”.

They also said there is an “absence of progressive thinking at national leadership level”.

The trio were suspended by Hackney Labour earlier this year for voting in favour of hearing a motion calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

In a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter, they said: “We can no longer in good conscience continue campaigning for a Labour party which nationally refuses to call out the genocide in Gaza, continues to support arms sales to Israel, and seeks to clamp down on pro-Palestinian protests.”

The councillors are expected to give a press conference this morning at the encampment set up by pro-Palestinian protesters outside Hackney Town Hall.

In a long list of complaints, they accuse Labour of refusing to commit to essential additional funding for council services, abandoning a pledge to invest £28 billion in the green economy, failing to call for public ownership of utilities and key services, and offering no route out of the housing crisis.

They claim the party provides no opposition to further NHS privatisation, offers no meaningful conversation about migrants’ contribution to the UK, and adheres to the “poverty-inducing two-child policy benefit cap”.

Their post, described as a “statement of purpose for Hackney Independent Socialist Group”, goes on to say the councillors are “deeply troubled” by Labour’s treatment of Hackney North MP Diane Abbott.

They say the party has shown “disrespect for Abbott’s political bravery and immense contribution to public life”.

The MP’s “continued suspension after more than a year is in stark contrast to the exoneration and welcome extended to a hard-right Tory”, they add.

Conservative MP Natalie Elphicke last week defected to Labour.

The trio said Abbott’s is “just one of many cases of the Labour party abusing its own processes with a disregard for natural justice in a toxic and unacceptable culture of expulsions and exclusions”.

Their newly formed independent group will “by contrast, aim to foster a collaborative and listening culture, working with trade unions and learning from community campaigns and initiatives”.

The statement continues: “We will act independently when necessary but work collaboratively with other groups on the council and will support the incumbent Hackney administration where it furthers the aims outlined above or other progressive causes.”

It ends with a pledge to “work hard with residents to fight for the best services possible from the council and other public bodies”.

They commit to campaigning on issues such as ethical investment, including pushing the council to “divest from arms and fossil fuels”, as well as climate, education, health, housing, and more.

It concludes: “We will lead our work with a focus on collective responsibility, genuine inclusion, and kinder politics.”

Cllrs Turbet-Delof and Wrout represent Victoria ward, and Premru is a councillor for Clissold.

Update, 16:17 Friday 17 May 2024:

A Hackney Labour Group spokesperson said: “All Labour councillors are expected to accept collective responsibility and follow the whip.

“It is disappointing that three councillors – elected as Labour just two years ago – have chosen to ignore the democratic decisions made by their residents and set up their own group to oppose Hackney Labour and the progressive, positive manifesto on which they were elected.

“They should do the right thing, stand down and trigger by-elections in their respective seats to give local people the opportunity to decide who they wish to represent them.

“Hackney Labour continues to deliver for our borough, building 1,000 council homes for Hackney residents, reducing council tax for the most vulnerable, delivering a green new deal to tackle the climate emergency and creating safer, healthier streets for all.”