Twenty councillors including a council leader have resigned from Labour after accusing the national party of taking a "draconian" shift and using "bullying tactics".

Pendle's Labour group claims the national party is targeting local councillors, preventing them from standing for elections, and using "aggressive bullying tactics to suppress fairness and free speech".

The councillors will not join any other political party but will form independent groups on Pendle Borough Council, Brierfield Town Council and Nelson Town Council.

Pendle Council has been run by a coalition of the Liberal Democrats and Labour, with the former party confirming they will work with the independent group to retain the partnership. 

Pendle Borough Council leader Cllr Asjad Mahmood said he felt senior party officials had attempted to impose their ideas locally.

In a statement, he said: “I, along with my colleagues, was elected by local residents to represent them in the council chamber.

“As a Labour councillor, I have always felt the party’s policies were aligned with my own beliefs and those of the constituents who have honoured me with their votes.

“Sadly, over a recent period, senior party officials have attempted to impose their ideas at a local level. I was elected to serve the public, not party officials.”

Cllr Yvonne Tennant added: “At a time when 14 years of Tory cuts are affecting local people across Pendle, the Labour Party leadership should be allowing hard-working councillors the opportunity to challenge the Tories.

“Instead, colleagues are being hindered from fulfilling their roles.”

The resignations follows questions Labour has repeatedly being asked about its position on Israel-Gaza conflict and how it affects upcoming local and national elections. Candidates for the local elections in May are set to be announced soon

Pendle Council has also held two debates on Gaza with the most recent in March, which included a fresh call for peace, humanitarian aid, a political solution for Israel and Palestinian states and a proposed "Homes for Palestinians" scheme, similar to UK help for Ukrainians.

Cllr Mohammed Iqbal added senior figures within the party were trying to “stifle free speech” and even threaten councillors with removal as candidates.

He said: “I was suspended from the party for 18 months before it was lifted in December 2023 for advocating on behalf of my constituents.

“I joined the Labour Party more than 30 years ago and have always been encouraged to speak out on issues.

“However, senior figures within the party are attempting to stifle free speech and threaten dedicated councillors with removal as candidates. I, for one, cannot stand by and allow this to happen. The bullying needs to stop.”

Liberal Democrats Cllr David Whipp, deputy leader of Pendle Council, said: “I’m not surprised about the resignations from the Labour Party. Under Keir Starmer it appears to have become very intolerant of diverse views. I am happy to work with the newly independent councillors on Pendle Council.”

Cllr Ash Sutcliffe, Conservative councillor for Waterside and Horsfield, says residents will be "left wondering who is looking after them and their services" following the move.

He said: "As a councillor you must focus on the local issues that you can control.

"While I understand these people may feel they are sending a message of their dissatisfaction to Keir Starmer, specifically his candidate selection and suspension processes, their residents are left wondering who is looking after them and their services?

"As a Conservative councillor, and indeed group, we aim to put the people of Pendle first and focus on the local issues our residents expect us to tackle. In Pendle, I am now wondering if there is a Labour Party left at all?"

A Labour Party spokesperson said: "The Labour Party's focus is on winning the general election so we can improve the lives of those we are elected to serve.”

The following Labour councillors have resigned from the party:

Pendle Borough Council

Cllr Asjad Mahmood

Cllr Yvonne Tennant

Cllr Mohammed Hanif

Cllr Mohammed Ammer

Cllr Zafar Ali

Cllr Mohammed Adnan

Cllr Faraz Ahmed

Cllr Sajjad Ahmed

Cllr Mohammed Iqbal

Cllr Ruby Anwar


Nelson Town Council

Cllr Muhammad Ajmal Khan

Cllr Mohammed Adeel Qamar

Cllr Sughra Bibi

Cllr Anam Nawaz

Cllr Shabaz Ahmed

Cllr Mohammed Sufyaan Sarwar

Cllr Mohammed Kamran Latif

Cllr Naeem Akhtar


Brierfield Town Council

Cllr Adeel Waseem

Cllr Saqlain Ali