Sir Keir Starmer faces rebellion after eight Labour frontbenchers resign after Commons vote on Gaza ceasefire

Eight Labour frontbenchers have resigned over the Commons vote on a Gaza ceasefire
Members of the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community hold placards during a rally in support of Palestinians, outside of the Houses of Parliament in central London on November 15, 2023, to demand Members of Parliament vote for a ceasefire in Gaza. (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)Members of the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community hold placards during a rally in support of Palestinians, outside of the Houses of Parliament in central London on November 15, 2023, to demand Members of Parliament vote for a ceasefire in Gaza. (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)
Members of the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community hold placards during a rally in support of Palestinians, outside of the Houses of Parliament in central London on November 15, 2023, to demand Members of Parliament vote for a ceasefire in Gaza. (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)

Sir Keir Starmer faced a significant rebellion in a Commons vote advocating for a ceasefire in Gaza, leading to the loss of eight frontbenchers. On Wednesday evening (November 15), four shadow ministers, including Jess Phillips, Yasmin Qureshi, Afzal Khan, and Paula Barker, resigned after supporting an SNP amendment to the King's Speech endorsing a ceasefire.

Additional frontbenchers, namely Rachel Hopkins, Sarah Owen, Naz Shah, and Andy Slaughter, also stepped down from their positions after breaking party orders to back the amendment. Parliamentary private secretaries Dan Carden and Mary Foy also relinquished their positions.

MPs voted 293 to 125, majority 168, to reject the SNP’s King’s Speech amendment calling for “all parties to agree to an immediate ceasefire” in Gaza. Labour MPs had been ordered to abstain on the SNP move and were told instead to back Sir Keir’s position calling for longer “humanitarian pauses” rather than a ceasefire. In a statement following the vote, Sir Keir said he regretted that party colleagues had not backed his position. He said: “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.”

Ms Phillips, a prominent frontbencher, expressed her resignation with a "heavy heart" in a letter to her party leader saying: “I have tried to do everything that I could to make it so that this was not the outcome, but it is with a heavy heart that I will be leaving my post in the shadow Home Office team. On this occasion, I must vote with my constituents, my head, and my heart which has felt as if it were breaking over the last four weeks with the horror of the situation in Israel and Palestine."

Before the vote in the Commons, some of the MPs had already asked publicly for a ceasefire, signalling their intention to break with Sir Keir. A ceasefire was called for after Ms Shah warned of a "humanitarian catastrophe" and Mr. Khan informed the assembly that his "constituents have demanded" it.

Sir Keir will be dealt a setback by the size of the revolt, as he had hoped to prevent additional damaging splits among his parliamentary party over the subject. The leadership has endorsed the approach taken by the UK government to urge for humanitarian pauses in the conflict to allow aid to reach Palestinians trapped in the bombarded territory, but has stopped short of calling for a complete suspension of hostilities.

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