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5 August 2014updated 12 Oct 2023 10:15am

“Disproportionate, ugly and tragic“: Boris Johnson on Gaza eclipses the PM

A government minister resigned this morning over Gaza. No 10, the Chancellor and the Mayor of London have all responded to this move, revealing an increasingly untenable situation for the PM.

By Anoosh Chakelian

The minister and Tory peer Sayeeda Warsi resigned from the government this morning in protest over its policy on Gaza. The responses are interesting:

No 10

This is Downing Street’s official response to Warsi’s resignation:

The Prime Minister regrets that Baroness Warsi has decided to stand down and is grateful for the excellent work that she has done both as a Minister and in Opposition.

Our policy has always been consistently clear – the situation in Gaza is intolerable and we’ve urged both sides to agree to an immediate and unconditional ceasefire.

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It’s notable but unsurprising that there is no change in the PM’s line on Gaza, his reticence over condemning Israel wholesale is still clear.

The Chancellor

The Telegraph reports George Osborne’s far stronger reaction to the former Foreign Office minister’s move:

This is a disappointing and frankly unnecessary decision. The British government is working with others in the world to bring peace to Gaza and we now have a tentative ceasefire which we all hope will hold.

The Mayor of London

Boris Johnson called the news “very sad” and voiced a hope for her return to government “as soon as possible”. Yet it’s his reaction to the crisis in Gaza, on LBC this morning, that is telling in how it differs from David Cameron’s stance:

I can’t for the life of me see how this can be a sensible strategy. I think it is disproportionate, I think it is ugly and it is tragic and I don’t think it will do Israel any good in the long run.

Cameron so far has avoided the word “disproportionate”. With a dramatic government resignation and a popular Tory figure like Johnson, a self-proclaimed Zionist, strongly condemning Israel’s actions, how long will the PM be able to hold (or hold back) his position?

UPDATE 5 August 12.56

Ed Miliband has added to the responses to Warsi’s resignation, calling her statement “completely right”:

The government’s position is wrong and I think Sayeeda Warsi’s statement is completely right about this.

Miliband also called for the PM to “think much more clearly” about his policy on Gaza and to “break his silence” on the subject of Israel’s actions.

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