A Darlington council vote supporting calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza was voted down by councillors. 

Green Party members urged opposition political parties to join its plea for an end to the fighting and for an immediate release of all civilians captured and detained without legal process.

But the party failed to convince the majority of Labour or Liberal Democrat members, who instead voted for an amended motion which called for a “cessation of violence”.

At a full council meeting on Thursday, Conservative councillors abstained and left the hall while the vote took place. 

Calling for an immediate ceasefire, Green cllr Matthew Snedker said: “It is the alarm and distress of Darlington residents that is the prime motivation for bringing this motion to council. 

“If we are to be leaders of our communities in reassuring them that we oppose violence and seek peace we cannot remain silent in the face of such injustice. Any suggestion that politicians, local or national, should avoid comment on the escalating violence in the world should be seen as cowardice by many.”

The meeting at the Dolphin Centre also heard from Dr Mohammed Qureshi, based at Darlington Memorial Hospital, who urged the council to act in support of those affected. 

He told Council leader Stephen Harker: “My fellow colleagues and surgeons are in utter grief and desperation over the massacre over our relatives and friends in Gaza. How in the world can members of this council support the idea of the massacre restarting? 

“The support given by political leaders for this massacre to continue has emboldened racists in our town to make hateful comments to myself and members of my community. It is a sad day when leaders like yourself succumb to pressure from your national party and do what is easy, rather than what is right.” 

The ceasefire between Israel’s military and Hamas ended on Friday. 

Cllr Harker said Labour members had a free vote but offered an alternative motion, which councillors voted on.

“In my view, the motion makes statements which are contentious and it is therefore difficult to support the motion as it stands, when the immediate focus must be on the cessation of violence,” he said. 

Of those taking part in the vote, eight voted against the Labour amendment (six Green and two Labour) and four abstained (three Labour and one Independent). 

Yet the Conservatives’ decision to leave the vote was condemned by cross-party councillors. Labour cllr Sajna Ali said: “I am absolutely disgusted and horrified. It absolutely baffles me as to why they did that.” 

Recommended reading:

​Subscribe to The Northern Echo here and receive exclusive access!

But cllr Jonathan Dulston, leader of the Conservatives, defended his party’s decision. 

He said: "Our understanding, shaped by engaging with communities both since the commencement of this conflict and particularly in the week leading up to the motion, indicates that this divisive proposal, riddled with inaccuracies, has the potential to exacerbate existing divisions within communities. 

“Given the highly sensitive and nuanced nature of the conflict, we believe it is crucial to approach such motions with a commitment to fostering unity rather than further discord and as such the motion we were faced with was in our opinion not able to be amended in any way that would prevent the divisive nature of the motion."