Fresh Labour meltdown as Keir Starmer suffers a huge Commons revolt with slew of shadow ministers quitting and dozens of MPs defying him by voting for a Gaza ceasefire
Sir Keir Starmer suffered a huge Labour revolt in the House of Commons tonight as dozens of his MPs defied him and backed calls for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
The Labour leader saw vast swathes of his parliamentary party ignore his orders and vote in favour of an SNP-led demand for an ‘immediate ceasefire’ in the Middle East.
Sir Keir also lost a number of his frontbenchers as they disregarded a three-line whip he had imposed.
At least five of his shadow ministers – Yasmin Qureshi, Naz Shah, Helen Hayes, Paula Barker and Afzal Khan – broke ranks with their party leader and pledged their support for a ceasefire.
Ms Qureshi, Ms Barker and Mr Khan all resigned their posts prior to tonight’s vote.
Their challenge to Sir Keir’s authority came despite the Labour leader having told his MPs to abstain from the vote on an amendment to the King’s Speech.
He had instead ordered his parliamentary party to vote for a bland amendment he tabled himself, which supported ‘humanitarian pauses’ in the conflict.
This evening’s vote was held as pro-Palestinian supporters staged a large demonstration outside Parliament.
A total of 125 MPs voted in favour of the SNP amendment, which means it was likely backed by dozens of Labour MPs.
The crisis in the Middle East, sparked by the Hamas terrorist atrocities on 7 October, had already caused weeks of discomfort for Sir Keir as he battles with the huge divisions within his party.
Sir Keir Starmer has suffered a huge challenge to his authority as Labour MPs defied his stance on the Middle East crisis
This evening’s vote was held as pro-Palestinian supporters staged a large demonstration outside Parliament
Yasmin Qureshi announced her resignation as shadow minister for women and equalities in order to vote for the SNP amendment
Fellow Labour shadow ministers Naz Shah, Helen Hayes and Afzal Khan also backed calls for a ceasefire
The Labour rebellion came despite Sir Keir having told his MPs to abstain in a vote on the SNP amendment to the King’s Speech
The Labour leader had instead ordered his parliamentary party to vote for a bland amendment he tabled himself, which supported ‘humanitarian pauses’ in the conflict.
Prior to tonight’s vote, Ms Qureshi announced her resignation as shadow minister for women and equalities and criticised Sir Keir’s support for humanitarian ‘pauses’ rather than a ceasefire.
In a letter to her party leader, she wrote: ‘The situation in Gaza desperately requires an immediate ceasefire to address the humanitarian catastrophe and to advance moves towards a political solution that brings freedom, prosperity, and security.
‘Only through a humanitarian ceasefire can aid be reliably delivered into Gaza. Along with the UN and other humanitarian agencies, I believe that the scale of need is so high that ‘pauses’ cannot offer the time and securioty needed to meet even basic civilian needs.
‘Anything short of a ceasefire will lead to the loss of more lives.’
Mr Khan also resigned as a shadow trade minister just ahead of tonight’s vote, posting on social media: ‘With 11,000+ Gazans killed, supporting a full & immediate ceasefire is the very least we can do.
‘In order to be free to do so, I have stepped down as Shadow Minister for Exports.’
Mary Kelly Foy was also set to leave her role as a parliamentary aide to Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner after she backed a ceasefire.
In the Commons debate prior to voting on the King’s Speech, Ms Shah said a ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ is taking place in Gaza as she backed calls for an ‘immediate ceasefire’.
The shadow Home Office minister told the Commons: ‘I will be supporting the amendment which seeks an immediate ceasefire.’
The Bradford West MP also invoked Robin Cook, who resigned from Sir Tony Blair’s Cabinet over the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
‘Make no mistake, this is a humanitarian catastrophe which is why I urge members to back an immediate ceasefire on all sides and push for the release of hostages,’ she said.
Ms Hayes, a shadow minister for children and early years, said her ‘conscience’ told her she should back a ceasefire.
‘We must all of us be able to stand in front of our own constituents with integrity and at peace with our own conscience on the issues that matter most to them.
‘My conscience tells me that I must call for a ceasefire today,’ the Dulwich and West Norwood MP said.
Sir Keir’s stance on the Middle East conflict has led to deep internal splits within his party.
He has backed the Government’s position of pushing for humanitarian pauses in the fighting to allow aid to reach Palestinians trapped in Gaza.
But Sir Keir has stopped short of calling for a total cessation of hostilities and repeatedly backed Israel’s right to defend itself in the wake of the 7 October attacks.
Several shadow ministers have openly called for a ceasefire and dozens of councillors have resigned from Labour over Sir Keir’s refusal to back a permanent halt to the violence.
In response to tonight’s vote, Sir Keir said in a statement: ‘On 7 October, Israel suffered its worst terrorist attack in a single day at the hands of Hamas.
‘No government would allow the capability and intent to repeat such an attack to go unchallenged. Since then, we have also seen an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Gaza. At every stage during this crisis, my approach has been driven by the need to respond to both these tragedies.
‘To stand by the right to self-defence of any nation which suffers terrorism on this scale, alongside the basic human rights and dignity of innocent Palestinians caught, once again, in the crossfire.
‘Alongside leaders around the world, I have called throughout for adherence to international law, for humanitarian pauses to allow access for aid, food, water, utilities and medicine, and have expressed our concerns at the scale of civilian casualties. Much more needs to be done in this regard to ease the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding in Gaza.
‘And in addition to addressing the present, every leader has a duty not to go back to a failed strategy of containment and neglect, but to forge a better and more secure future for both Palestinians and Israelis.
‘I regret that some colleagues felt unable to support the position tonight. But I wanted to be clear about where I stood, and where I will stand. Leadership is about doing the right thing. That is the least the public deserves. And the least that leadership demands.’
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