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Councillors received ‘serious threats’ over Israel-Gaza ceasefire stance

The council advised councillors to temporarily suspend in-person ward surgeries as a result of the ‘serious threats’, reports Josh Mellor, Local Democracy Reporter

A demonstration calling for a ceasefire at Walthamstow Town Square last Sunday (5th November) saw an estimated 500 people in attendance. Credit: Waltham Forest Socialist Workers Party

Councillors in Waltham Forest reportedly received “serious threats” last week over their position on a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Council leader Grace Williams said the threats, received by text message last Thursday (2nd November), mean the council has taken the “difficult decision” to advise councillors to temporarily suspend in-person ward surgeries.

Other councillors have reportedly experienced “online intimidation” over their public position on the conflict.

Cllr Williams said: “The events in Israel and Gaza have shocked us all. Councillors across all parties are united in our duty to bring communities together and ensure everyone feels safe in Waltham Forest.

“The safety of public representatives in our community is an important part of that.”

The Metropolitan Police, who are said to be investigating the threats, have not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.

Pressure on local politicians has grown in recent weeks, with the Waltham Forest Council of Mosques (WFCOM) publishing the name and photograph of every local MP and councillor on their social media, with their response to the question: “do you demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza?”.

WFCOM, which says it represents 12 member mosques, also published an open letter to councillors denouncing Israel’s “barbaric and inhumane bombing” of civilian areas in Gaza.

The letter – which makes no reference to Hamas or the October 7th attacks – called Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer’s support for a humanitarian pause in fighting instead of a ceasefire “an insult to any intelligent person”.

It added that the mosques “expect” all local political representatives to join the call for a ceasefire.

Nine of the borough’s 60 councillors appear to have responded with support for a ceasefire, while the rest have question marks next to their name.

Local Labour MP Stella Creasy has a tick next to her name while Conservative MP for Chingford and Woodford Green Iain Duncan Smith and Labour MP for Leyton and Wanstead John Cryer both have a cross next to theirs.

WFCOM has since removed councillors’ photographs from its table, but told the Local Democracy Reporting Service it aims to “inform the electorate and facilitate dialogue” between residents and their representatives.

They added: “Democracy thrives on open discussions, lobbying, and the ability of the electorate to hold their representatives accountable for their positions and actions.

“This method is common practice across many platforms, such as theyworkforyou.com, to highlight positions held by elected public representatives.”

In recent weeks there have been two demonstrations calling for a ceasefire at Walthamstow Town Square, including last Sunday (5th November), when an estimated 500 people attended.

A protest to demand that Cryer supports a ceasefire is also planned tomorrow (9th November), outside Leytonstone Station.

Several local Labour councillors have undersigned open letters calling for a ceasefire, breaking ranks from leader Sir Keir’s call for a humanitarian pause.

Following this, Waltham Forest Labour said: “We urge the Government to do everything it can to put an end to the immediate violence in Israel and Gaza – to ensure that hostages are returned home safety, to restore humanitarian access to Gaza and to uphold international law.

“Waltham Forest has a proud history of standing together against hate and in times of crisis.

“All of our Labour councillors are focused on serving our community and working to ensure everyone feels safe and supported.”

Conservative group leader Emma Best said: “Councillors across all parties are united in our duty to bring communities together and ensure everyone feels safe in Waltham Forest.”

However, she added that her group would continue to hold ward surgeries and engage with the public.

Cllr Best also shared her group’s response to WFCOM’s letter, which called the Hamas attacks and bombing of Gaza by Israel “horrific and traumatic”.

It added: “An eye for an eye makes us all blind. Peace cannot be achieved through violence and negotiations to bring about stability must begin immediately.

“We call for the enactment of conditions that make a ceasefire possible and on all those involved in this conflict to prioritise humanity and human life above all.

“We call for humanitarian pauses and corridors to allow aid. We call on any and all military action to be intelligence-led and targeted, focused on ground operations that protect innocent life. Any civilian death, especially that of young children, is a horror beyond words.”

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said: “On Thursday 2 November, police received a report about threatening messages sent to a man in Waltham Forest.

“Officers spoke in person with the victim on the day of the report and since then enquiries to identify a suspect have been ongoing. 

“The victim is being kept up to date with the enquiries which are ongoing at pace, and a safeguarding assessment has taken place.

“At this time, officers have assessed that there is no outstanding threat to any individual.”

The Met encourages anyone who is a victim of hate crime, experiences threatening behaviour or is worried about their safety to report it. For non-emergency incidents, report online at met.police.uk or 101. Call 999 in an emergency where there is a danger to life or a crime is in progress.  

Update: The headline and article was amended to state that councillors rather than one councillor had received threats. A statement from the Metropolitan Police was also added.