Senior London Tory councillor quits in fury over Gaza ceasefire stance

Jamal Chohan (Kingston Council)
Jamal Chohan (Kingston Council)

A senior London Tory councillor has quit the party in fury over its refusal to back a ceasefire in Gaza.

Jamal Chohan, who was deputy leader of Kingston Conservatives, branded the party a "sinking ship" which is "losing its dignity" on Tuesday.

He said he resigned after being told to apologise for co-signing a letter demanding a ceasefire that was sent out to more than 19,000 elected members at every town hall in England and Wales on Sunday.

It was vilified as "intimidating" by some recipients after the wording suggested that councillors who did not back a full suspension of hostilities in the Israel-Hamas war would be named and shamed.

Mr Chohan said his local Tory association gave him until 10am on Tuesday to apologise for his "perceived threatening language", but he refused.

However, a spokesman for Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) insisted that Mr Chohan has not been a party member for three years, despite him winning his seat in the 2022 local elections as the Tory candidate and him holding a senior position on the council.

Mr Chohan told the Standard that he had donated “thousands of pounds” to the Tories over the last few years, paid his fees and was still a member until Tuesday morning.

But a CCHQ spokesman said he attempted to rejoin the party on Monday afternoon and there was no record of donations. His doctor-turned-businessman father Ashraf Chohan owns a care home company and has donated at least £20,000 to the party since 2019.

In his resignation letter, Mr Chohan said: "I have been given an ultimatum that I must apologise in a public statement...The party has adopted policies which are extending to the far right.

"Whether that be aggressive anti-immigration rhetoric that has since been ruled to be illegal, to suppressing freedom of speech by denouncing legitimate protests, and plans to rewrite rights laws to persist in a deportation strategy that lacks compassion.

"The party looks very much like a sinking ship which is losing its dignity in the process. Something the party should know all about given that it leaves refugees in the same predicament."

Mr Chohan claimed he was on the Conservative MP candidates list.

CCHQ strenuously denied this.

A CCHQ spokesman said: "Mr Chohan has not been a member since 2020. He was told he was no longer a member of the Group at 5pm [on Monday] and that he would need to apologise for his perceived threatening language if he wanted to be readmitted."

Mr Chohan added: "In this day and age of character assassinations, I can anticipate the party machinery will make some attempts to discredit me.

"The reality is that I have been regularly invited by the party to interview as a potential MP candidate. It was me who was reluctant to pursue this and for good reason. I respect the party whip but that should not extend to silencing advocates of peace."

He will sit as an independent on Kingston Council.

Some 1,200 people were killed in Israel when Hamas launched a surprise assault on October 7. More than 120 more were taken hostage.

Gaza’s Hamas-run government says at least 11,500 Palestinians have been killed, nearly half of them children, since Tel Aviv launched its counter attack.