Local councillor will not step down following open letter calling for Gaza ceasefire

Councillor James Giles has confirmed he will not be stepping down from any formal positions in the Local Government Association (LGA) after sending an open letter to all 19,102 councillors across England and Wales calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The councillor for Kingston Independent Residents’ Group faced backlash on X (formerly known as Twitter) when he tweeted screenshots of the email.

Cllr Giles and Cllr Jamal Chohan, who co-authored the letter, were accused of blackmail and threatening councillors by planning to publish those who refused to sign “in the interest of accountability”.

Giles said: “Blackmail means you have made a choice. This is not for those who abstain as that would compromise our offer of anonymity.”

At time of writing, Cllr James Giles said that over 500 councillors across all parties have signed the email.

“This transcends the political divide. We are elected representatives and people have the right to know what we vote for,” said Cllr Giles.

Cllr James Chard for Twickenham Riverside was one of the councillors who did not sign the letter and took issue with this move, saying it amounted to targeted harassment.

Since the open letter was sent, Cllr Giles said he will “come after” the LGA for defamation after they released a statement saying that pending investigation Cllr Giles had stepped down from his positions there.

Cllr Giles said he has not agreed to resign from his role at the LGA.

“My discussion with the LGA concluded that I would suspend myself for a month until the heat dies down,” Giles said.

Cllr Giles hopes that the LGA “comes to their senses” before the matter reaches court.

Kingston Council has distanced itself from the open email in a press statement but this has not deterred the councillor.

“I am accountable to my residents and my residents only. I have received dozens of emails from them about their concerns about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” said Cllr Giles.

Since a four-day ceasefire in Gaza was announced, Cllr Giles said that he felt “partially vindicated” by this turn of events.

“Diplomacy is not just for the birds. Diplomacy is not just the naive dream of a young councillor,” said Cllr Giles.

In total, four Kingston councillors, James Giles, Yvonne Tracey, Jamal Chohan, and Kamala Kugan, have signed the open letter.

The letter is currently pending investigation by Information Commissioner’s Office, Kingston Council, and the Metropolitan Police.

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Reporter and former editor for the Kingston Courier.

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