Labour to put party position on Israel-Hamas conflict to potential vote

Sir Keir Starmer’s party also said it is ‘not going to be engaging’ with an SNP amendment demanding a ceasefire in the Middle East.

Patrick Daly
Tuesday 14 November 2023 19:01 GMT
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has seen splits in his party over the Israel-Hamas war (Jacob King/PA)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has seen splits in his party over the Israel-Hamas war (Jacob King/PA)

Labour is to put forward its own amendment to the King’s Speech to “reaffirm” the party’s position on the Israel-Hamas conflict.

A party spokesman said the wording of the amendment would address concerns on both sides of the Middle East conflict, including the lack of action by the Palestinian militant group Hamas to release about 240 hostages and the “scale of civilian casualties in Gaza”.

The Opposition outfit has also confirmed it is “not going to be engaging” with the SNP’s amendment to the King’s Speech which demands a ceasefire.

It comes after reports suggested Sir Keir could sack shadow ministers who vote in favour of any Commons motion calling for a ceasefire in the war.

We’re not going to be engaging with the party political game-playing by the SNP in Parliament

Labour spokesman

The Middle East conflict has caused splits in the Labour Party, with the leadership backing the UK Government’s position of pushing for humanitarian pauses in the fighting to allow aid to reach Palestinians trapped in the bombarded territory but stopping short of calling for a total cessation of hostilities.

However, several shadow ministers have openly called for a ceasefire.

A number of amendments demanding a ceasefire have been laid ahead of a Commons’ debate on the King’s Speech on Wednesday.

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle will decide ahead of the debate what motions will be put to a vote.

A ceasefire amendment has been put forward by the SNP and another by a band of left-wing MPs, including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Green MP Caroline Lucas and Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville-Roberts.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Sir Keir is preparing to sack those who vote in favour of the SNP’s motion, should Sir Lindsay put it to a division.

A Labour spokesman would not confirm the reports, but said: “We’re not going to be engaging with the party political game-playing by the SNP in Parliament.”

By tradition, those occupying frontbench positions are bound by a collective responsibility that they support the party’s position but, so far, Sir Keir has allowed some to deviate with their support for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Announcing the decision to put forward a motion on the crisis, a party spokesman said: “Labour’s amendment reaffirms the position set out in Keir Starmer’s Chatham House speech and reflects our concerns about what we’ve seen on the ground in the last fortnight, which includes the lack of hostage release, the insufficient amount of aid and utilities getting in and being distributed, the scale of civilian casualties in Gaza and the amount of violence on the West Bank.”

Hamas raids on October 7 killed 1,200 people in Israel and saw more than 200 taken hostage.

Retaliatory strikes, including a ground offensive into northern Gaza, by Tel Aviv’s forces have killed more than 11,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.

During a debate in the Commons on Tuesday, Labour shadow minister Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi appeared to suggest that humanitarian pauses alone would not address a “grave humanitarian crisis now unfolding in Gaza”, describing them as only a “first step”.

Mr Dhesi, who serves as a shadow Treasury minister, was speaking from the backbenches when he said: “The damage to water pipelines, sewage pipes, hospitals, schools and other infrastructure needs to be urgently rebuilt.

“That, I think, will require a much longer negotiated ceasefire from both sides and a release of all hostages.”

At least 16 shadow ministers have either called for a ceasefire or shared others’ calls on social media, including Yasmin Qureshi and Jess Phillips.

Last week, Imran Hussain, MP for Bradford East, quit as shadow minister for the new deal for working people to be able to “strongly advocate” for a ceasefire.

Tens of councillors have also resigned from the party over its refusal to back international pressure for a permanent halt to the violence.

Labour MP Tahir Ali (Birmingham, Hall Green), speaking during the King’s Speech debate on Tuesday, later said: “A ceasefire is crucial to stop the violence and to allow vital humanitarian assistance to find its way into Gaza.

“It is also essential to restarting a peace process, which would secure Israel coexisting with a legitimate Palestinian state.”

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