Advertisement

More than 20,000 Labour members quit over Gaza and green policies

More than 23,000 Labour members have left the party in the past two months amid rows over its position on Gaza and a watering down of green pledges.

The opposition still commands a huge lead over the Tories in opinion polls despite the sharp drop in membership numbers, revealed in figures released to the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC).

Labour sources told The Observer that the party’s overall financial position remained strong despite the fall in subscriptions, which make up just one revenue stream for the party.

Sir Keir Starmer’s party now gets a large chunk of its income from donors along with financial support from unions.

The Labour leader came under heavy criticism for his initial refusal to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza following Israel’s raids on the territory, which was in response to Hamas’s 7 October terror attack.

Anger among Britain’s Muslim community at Labour’s handling of the issue has been the primary driver behind the thousands of members ripping up their pledge cards, party insiders believe.

Sir Keir and Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, have also come under fire for scaling down the party’s £28bn green investment plan, which was seen by some as a key dividing line between Labour and the Tories.

Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves were criticised for scaling back Labour’s green prosperity plan (Reuters)
Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves were criticised for scaling back Labour’s green prosperity plan (Reuters)

Labour’s top two said the green prosperity plan would be reduced to under £15bn.

The party’s membership peaked at 532,000 in 2019 under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. The report to the NEC last week revealed that Labour’s membership had fallen from 390,000 in January to 366,604 at the latest count. It was unclear exactly when the last count took place.

“It is a big fall in just two months,” one senior Labour figure who was at the meeting told The Observer.  “People were surprised, even taken aback.”

Luke Akehurst, an NEC member, told the paper that Labour membership was still at “historically high levels” despite the drop.

“Labour only had 150,000 members at the end of its last period in office [in 2010],” he added.

“The state of the opinion polls suggest there is no correlation between membership and electoral popularity.”

Momentum, the grassroots left-wing group that supported Mr Corbyn and has become increasingly critical of Sir Keir, accused the party’s high command of taking the party’s base “for granted”.

“From a failure to oppose Israel’s brutal war on Gaza to morale-damaging U-turns and the mistreatment of Diane Abbott, Keir Starmer is alienating swathes of Labour’s core support,” it said in a statement.

“Members are the lifeblood of Labour – their departure en masse should set alarm bells ringing.”