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14 November 2023

Can Keir Starmer prevent mass resignations over Gaza?

Labour MPs are threatening to rebel in an SNP-led vote if the party does not back a ceasefire.

By Rachel Wearmouth

Keir Starmer remains at odds with Labour MPs and shadow ministers who want the party to back a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza conflict. The party splits could reach new heights tomorrow (15 November) when the SNP pushes for a Commons vote on a pro-ceasefire amendment to the King’s Speech.

The Labour leadership is struggling to convince MPs not to rebel and support the party’s current stance in favour of “humanitarian pauses” rather than a full ceasefire. Seventeen frontbenchers have publicly supported a ceasefire and Starmer, having vowed to restore collective responsibility, may be forced to sack those who rebel.

Meanwhile, David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, has been attempting to win over MPs. Yesterday he issued a statement saying that “short pauses are a first step” and calling for a “full and immediate humanitarian pause” in fighting between the two sides.

But at a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) last night, which Lammy addressed, some warned that the phrase “pauses” did not satisfy them and argued that the party should table its own amendment containing the word “ceasefire”.

[See also: David Cameron is “a poster boy for elite capture by Beijing”]

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One MP left the meeting calling the leadership’s position “utterly delusional”. Another source said: “The PLP was in one voice and the leadership heard it loud and clear: there’s little difference between the diplomatic work that a humanitarian pause would require to negotiate and a ceasefire involving all parties, so it’s time for Labour to lead the debate about how the UK can help achieve this, rather than continue to stumble over doing what’s right.”

But despite a number of frontbenchers said to be on the verge of resigning, the leadership appears to be determined not to break from the US-UK position (though some are hopeful the party can find a middle ground by Wednesday afternoon).

In an interview with Radio 4 this morning, Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, urged Israel to “show restraint”, adding that it was not realistic to urge Hamas, which has threatened further atrocities in Israel, to agree to a ceasefire. “A ceasefire is not something that you can dictate,” she said. “A ceasefire is something that has to be negotiated.”

In what appeared to be a direct appeal to MPs, she added: “The way to end this killing and this brutality is by the international community working together.

“We want to be the government in a year’s time. We don’t want to break that consensus of the G7. We want to work with the G7 and with Arab nations to put pressure on both Israel and on Hamas to stop this killing.”

[See also: The desperate return of the Cameroons]

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