Keir Starmer faces fresh Labour revolt over party's Israel stance

Keir Starmer faces fresh Labour revolt pressure over party’s stance on Israel as ‘half of his MPs back a ceasefire’ – as more frontbenchers break ranks

  • Labour leader warned by allies that stance leaves him on ‘wrong side of history’
  • Israel-Palestine war LIVE : IDF warns civilians to evacuate northern Gaza

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was last night under mounting pressure to drop his ‘pro-Israel’ stance amid claims that more than half of his MPs now back a ceasefire in Gaza. 

Both allies and critics privately warned that Sir Keir was out of step with the views of the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party. 

And one former frontbencher yesterday claimed Sir Keir’s refusal to back a ceasefire left him ‘on the wrong side of history’. 

However, others conceded that the party leader – who so far has called only for a ‘humanitarian pause’ in hostilities – was unable to back down for fear of stoking his ‘Sir Flip-Flop’ reputation of changing his mind on key policies. 

The warning came after three senior Labour figures – mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar – openly defied the party leadership on Friday to call for a ceasefire. 

Sir Keir Starmer is facing growing dissent within his party on his stance on the Israel-Hamas war as several Labour frontbenchers broke ranks to call for a ceasefire

Naz Shah, the shadow minister for crime reduction was one of several to publicly call for an immediate cessation to hostilities in the Middle East, posting that Israel’s actions went beyond defence

Thousands of protesters have taken to streets across the UK in support of Palestine, including in London, Manchester and Glasgow

Afzal Khan, the shadow exports minister and MP for Manchester Gorton retweeted a post condemning the ‘loss of innocent life’ in Gaza

Reports last night added that Mr Khan – who claimed a ceasefire would ‘stop the killing’ – had ignored a direct request from Sir Keir not to make the appeal. 

And on Friday, Shadow Business Minister Rushanara Ali – who has faced vitriol in her East London constituency for appearing to back Sir Keir’s stance – came out for an ‘immediate, internationally supported humanitarian ceasefire’. 

On Saturday, a host of frontbench Labour MPs broke ranks with the leadership to voice their support for a ceasefire, either with express endorsements or by sharing a call from the Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East (LFPME). 

Some of the MPs speaking out represent constituencies with prominent Muslim communities. It comes as Israel continued to pummel Gaza into Saturday in what was said to have been one of the heaviest nights of bombing during three weeks of war. 

Party insiders now insist that, given the choice, more than half the Labour MPs would make the same call. 

Only yesterday Shadow Home Office Minister Naz Shah openly vowed to ‘continue to call for a ceasefire’ after branding the latest Israeli action ‘not defence’ but ‘disproportionate attacks on a civilian population’. 

One ex-Shadow Cabinet member added: ‘Sir Keir is becoming increasingly isolated in the absence of a call for a humanitarian ceasefire. There’s little doubt Starmer will be on the wrong side of history.’ 

The latest dissent comes a day after the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan called for a ceasefire in Gaza

The Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham added his name to the growing list of Labour members deviating from the party’s official position

He also slammed Sir Keir for appearing to say in an interview that Israel had a right to cut water and electricity supplies to Gaza, but later clarifying: ‘I was saying Israel had the right to self defence… not the right to cut off water, food, fuel or medicines, on the contrary.’ 

The MP said: ‘He should be man enough to apologise to those deeply offended by his stance’. 

Paula Barker, Liverpool Wavertree MP and shadow minister for devolution, backed LFPME’s post on X, formerly Twitter, calling for an ‘immediate ceasefire by all parties’, along with the ‘unconditional release of all hostages brutally taken by Hamas’ and ‘unfettered humanitarian access’ to Gaza. 

Ms Barker shared the post, saying: ‘I fully support these calls.’ Shadow veterans minister and Luton South MP Rachel Hopkins, Sarah Owen, the MP for Luton North and shadow local government minister, and shadow solicitor general Andy Slaughter also shared LFPME’s post. 

And Jess Phillips, a shadow Home Office minister, and Opposition whip Kim Leadbeater both retweeted United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres’ restated appeal for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. 

Former Labour Cabinet Minister Lord Blunkett, however, poured scorn on Sir Keir’s critics, saying that ‘anyone who thinks there’s a simple way out of this… is completely deluding themselves’. 

Sir Keir’s team on Saturday said the party’s position on the matter remained unchanged and declined to answer when asked if the shadow ministers who deviated from Labour’s official position in pushing publicly for a ceasefire would be able to remain in post.

The Labour leader has sought to clarify his position on the conflict since he sparked unhappiness when he appeared to suggest that Israel had the right to withhold Gazans of water, food and fuel in its fightback against Hamas

The splits come amid concerns that Sir Keir’s ‘pro-Israel’ stance is alienating the party’s key Muslim vote. 

The Labour leader has sought to quell unhappiness over his position on the conflict, having previously appeared to have said that he supported Israel’s right to deprive Gazans of water, food and fuel in its fightback against the Palestinian militants that killed 1,400 Israelis. 

Multiple sources at a meeting on Wednesday, held between Sir Keir, his deputy Angela Rayner, and around a dozen Muslim MPs, including shadow minister Afzal Khan, described it as a ‘constructive’ exercise in which they expressed their grievances and those of their constituents. 

In Britain, thousands of protesters have taken to streets across the country – including London, Manchester and Glasgow – in support of the Palestinians. 

The top ten seats with the largest proportion of Muslim residents to be fought at the General Election are all Labour, and some MPs fear they could leach votes to George Galloway’s Workers Party. 

However, election experts predict the row is more likely to cost the party several key Tory-held target seats with potentially narrow majorities and significant Muslim electorates – such as Boris Johnson’s former seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip. 

The UN General Assembly on Friday approved a non-binding resolution calling for a ‘humanitarian truce’ in Gaza which they said should lead to a cessation of hostilities. 

The 193-member world body adopted the resolution by a vote of 120-14 with 45 abstentions, including the UK. 

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told broadcasters that Hamas had given no indication it ‘desires or would abide by calls for a ceasefire’. 

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