Baroness Warsi sparks a Tory rebellion over Gaza conflict

First Muslim cabinet minister slams PM for “morally indefensible” policy

David Cameron was facing mutiny among senior Tory MPs last night as they lined up to condemn his handling of the Gaza crisis and to warn his stance was alienating millions of British Muslims.

The rebellion was triggered by the resignation of Baroness Warsi, the first Muslim cabinet minister, over his refusal to take a tougher stance on the Israeli bombardment during which 1,800 Palestinians have died. Her dramatic departure, in which she warned the Prime Minister’s approach was “detrimental” to the national interest and risked radicalising young Muslims, won plaudits from several former Tory ministers. Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, also appeared to back her.

She called for an immediate arms embargo against Israel and said that the Government’s “approach and language during the current crisis in Gaza is morally indefensible”. In a swipe at Mr Cameron, she lamented the sacking of moderate ministers such as Kenneth Clarke in last month’s reshuffle.

George Osborne, the Chancellor, responded by describing her departure as “disappointing and frankly unnecessary” when a tentative ceasefire was in place. Her resignation is a major headache for the Prime Minister, who resumed his Portuguese holiday yesterday after attending the First World War commemoration events.

Video: Baroness Warsi speaks about resignation

His discomfort was compounded by prominent Conservatives breaking ranks to support Lady Warsi’s comments. Alistair Burt, the former Foreign Office minister responsible for the Middle East, said: “There is a concern that Israel’s attempts to protect itself and destroy terrorist tunnels is at such dreadful expense of human life. That’s there, not only on the Conservative benches, but throughout Parliament.”

The former Justice minister, Crispin Blunt, praised her decision as “brave and principled”, Damian Green, the former immigration minister, said she was a “brave woman who always speaks her mind” and the former Environment Secretary Lord Deben said: “She is a significant loss on a real matter of principle.”

Sir Nicholas Soames, a former defence minister, tweeted: “The Government needs to note and learn from the resignation of Sayeeda Warsi she was right to leave over a matter of such great importance.”

David Cameron with Baroness Warsi in 2010 (Getty) David Cameron with Baroness Warsi in 2010 (Getty)

Her departure will be a blow to Tory efforts to reach out to Muslim voters, just 12 per cent of whom backed the party at the last election.

The Tory MEP Sajjad Karim, who became the first British Muslim in the European Parliament, said: “There is quite clearly a directional shift in Government today and that goes against the grain of what the majority of British people will want to see.”

“I think there is a growing awareness amongst many people that our Government’s position is out of step with what people are seeing on their screens. Much more needs to be done to ensure Israel is held to restraint.”

Mohammed Amin, the chairman of Conservative Muslim Forum, said: “She has been an inspiring advocate for religious freedom around the world. Her work needs to continue.”

Lady Warsi had long urged Mr Cameron and senior Tories to reflect the concern of Muslim voters in a drive to make the party more inclusive.

She pointed out that while polls showed many Muslims shared "conservative values", very few actually voted for the party.

Baroness Warsi's resignation letter But she has become increasingly frustrated at what she sees as the increasingly anti-Muslim rhetoric in parts of Government - in particular over the “Trojan Horse” affair.

She is understood to have been concerned at the appointment of Peter Clarke, a former senior anti-terrorism policeman, to lead the inquiry into allegations hardline Islamists infiltrated Birmingham schools. She raised her worries with Mr Cameron but was overruled.

Click HERE for full-size version of Baroness Warsi's letter

The London mayor, Boris Johnson, also appeared to back her and in marked contrast to Mr Cameron described events in Gaza as “utterly horrifying and unacceptable”.

“I would certainly say it [the way Israel is behaving] is disproportionate,” he added.

Mr Cameron only learned of her decision moments before she broke the news to her 59,000 twitter followers. She tweeted: “I can no longer support Govt policy on #Gaza.”

In a fiercely worded resignation letter, she wrote: “My view has been that our policy in relation to the Middle East Peace Process generally but more recently our approach and language during the current crisis in Gaza is morally indefensible, is not in Britain’s national interest and will have a long-term detrimental impact on our reputation internationally and domestically.”

She told Mr Cameron there was “great unease across the Foreign Office amongst both Ministers and senior officials, in the way recent decisions are being made”.

She signalled her dismay over moves in the ministerial reshuffle, including the “inspirational” William Hague’s replacement as the Foreign Secretary by Philip Hammond and the departures of Mr Clarke and Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, who are both seen as strong upholders of international law.

 

Mr Cameron replied: “I understand your strength of feeling on the current crisis in the Middle East - the situation in Gaza is intolerable.

“Of course, we believe Israel has the right to defend itself. But we have consistently made clear our grave concerns about the heavy toll of civilian casualties and have called on Israel to exercise restraint, and to find ways to bring this fighting to an end.”

Mr Osborne said: “The British Government is working with others in the world to bring peace to Gaza and we do now have a tentative ceasefire which we all hope will hold.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “The Prime Minister must speak for himself. He’s been clear that he regards the violence in Gaza as appalling and has called repeatedly for a humanitarian ceasefire.

“The Government’s position has been, has argued consistently in favour of peace rather than conflict and ceasefire rather than violence. We’ve done that at all levels, regardless of what party we’re from in the coalition.

“There are differences of emphasis, longstanding differences of emphasis about how forceful the Government should be, and how forceful Britain should be in seeking to bring the two sides together.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world