source : www.theguardian.com
Keir Starmer is fighting to reassert his authority within the Labor Party over the Gaza conflict, with four shadow ministers prepared to resign in the coming days and a further ten others on ‘resignation watch’.
The Labor leader is facing a rebellion from as many as a dozen shadow ministers, who sources say are prepared to resign rather than vote against Starmer’s call for a ceasefire in the Middle East has refused to support.
Several Labor MPs say they are under immense pressure from party members and voters to take a stronger stand against Israel’s invasion of Gaza, as tens of thousands of people are expected to take part in pro-Palestinian protests in London this weekend.
Rishi Sunak confirmed these protests would go ahead on Wednesday and backed the position of Police Commissioner Mark Rowley in his long and public row with the Home Secretary. Suella Braverman accused the Met of “playing favorites” with protesters in a Times article published on Wednesday evening, accusing them of being tougher on right-wing groups than “pro-Palestinian gangs”.
A Labor official said party leaders were closely monitoring as many as 15 shadow ministers with large Muslim voter bases for signs they are about to quit following Imran Hussain’s resignation on Tuesday night. It is believed that no one is in the shadow cabinet.
A Labor frontbencher told the Guardian: “My position has always been that the only way forward is a ceasefire. The break (as advocated by Starmer) will not solve the problem. Someone has to say: enough is enough.”
Another said: “I have over 600 emails on this, which is more than any other topic ever including Brexit and Covid… I don’t know a Labor MP who isn’t under pressure at the moment.”
As Starmer tries to adapt to a very fluid situation in the Middle East and at home, he faces one of the biggest crises of his time as leader. The Palestinian death toll in Gaza has risen above 10,000 people, and the Biden administration has warned the Israeli government not to reoccupy Gaza.
Starmer angered many in his party when he told an interviewer last month that he believed Israel had the right to deny electricity and water to civilians in Gaza. He later clarified his comments and pledged his full support for Palestinian statehood last week in a speech that party officials hoped could bridge the growing internal rift.
However, his refusal to support a ceasefire in the region, calling instead for a ‘humanitarian pause’ in hostilities, threatens to reopen Labor divisions.
The Scottish National Party is considering using the King’s speech next week to force a vote on a ceasefire call. Labor sources say party leaders have told MPs not to vote for such a motion, but several frontbenchers are believed to be willing to resign to do so.
One said: “The vote will be the moment. The death toll is far too gruesome. I thought I could make a difference from within, but you have to stand up for what you believe in.”
Those considering resigning say they do not want to bring down Starmer. However, if some of them resign, it will pose the biggest threat to his authority within the party since the early days of his leadership, when he faced opposition from the left.
There are still ways for Starmer to avoid a painful confrontation with his own MPs, including the possibility of the Speaker of the House of Commons refusing to call a vote on a ceasefire.
The Labor leader said in a speech last week that a ceasefire would mean “Hamas would be emboldened and immediately begin preparing for future violence.”
He would have political cover to change his position if the international community, led by the US, does so first. So far, Starmer and Sunak have stuck closely to Joe Biden’s position. In recent days, Biden appears to have tightened his stance toward the Israeli government.
On Tuesday, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said: “Reoccupying Gaza by Israeli forces is not the right thing to do,” after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested his forces could remain there indefinitely. Kirby added: “Netanyahu and Biden are not always exactly in the same place on every issue.”
A Labor Party spokesperson said: “Labour fully understands the calls for a ceasefire. Everyone wants an end to the shocking images we see in Gaza. We must ensure that all hostages are released and that aid reaches those most in need. But a ceasefire would only freeze this conflict and give the hostages in Gaza and Hamas the infrastructure and ability to carry out the kind of attack we saw on October 7.
“International law must be respected at all times and innocent civilians must be protected. Labor calls for humanitarian pause in fighting. This is the best and most realistic way to address the humanitarian emergency in Gaza and is a position shared by our key allies.”
The Welsh parliament voted in support of calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza on Wednesday evening. The Plaid Cymru motion was supported in the Senedd after ministers in the Labour-led Welsh government abstained and offered its supporters a free vote.
The motion, which condemned Hamas’ attacks on Israeli civilians and the Israeli government’s attacks on Gaza, was adopted by a vote of 24 to 19, with 13 Senedd members abstaining.
source : www.theguardian.com