UK: MPs vote against ceasefire in Gaza despite Labour frontbench rebellion

UK: MPs vote against ceasefire in Gaza despite Labour frontbench rebellion
A total of 56 Labour MPs defied Keir Starmer's call for humanitarian pauses in Gaza, rather than a ceasefire.
3 min read
15 November, 2023
Starmer said he "regretted that party colleagues had not backed his position" on a humanitarian pause rather than a ceasefire [Getty / file photo]

The UK's House of Commons rejected calls for a ceasefire in Israel's war in Gaza late on Wednesday, with the Scottish National Party (SNP) motion receiving 293 votes against it.

Only 125 voted in favour of the motion calling on the government to "join with the international community in urgently pressing all parties to agree to an immediate ceasefire", with eight of Labour leader Keir Starmer's frontbenchers resigning from the frontbench after supporting the amendment.

Starmer was hit by a string of resignations from his frontbench in the House of Commons on Wednesday night, after facing a rebellion from his MPs over his refusal to back a ceasefire in Gaza.

A total of 56 Labour MPs defied their party leader to back a call for a ceasefire.

Among those who resigned are Yasmin Qureshi, Jess Phillips, Afzal Khan and Paula Barker.

Qureshi, the shadow minister for Women and Equalities, said: "The scale of bloodshed in Gaza is unprecedented. Tonight, I will vote for an immediate ceasefire."

"We must call for an end to the carnage to protect innocents lives and end human suffering," she added.

Labour MPs had been ordered to abstain on the vote and were told instead to back Starmer's position calling for longer "humanitarian pauses" rather than a ceasefire.

Starmer said he regretted that party colleagues had not backed his position, but that he wanted to be clear about where he stood.

"Much more needs to be done in this regard to ease the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding in Gaza," he said in a statement after the vote.

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"Leadership is about doing the right thing. That is the least the public deserves. And the least that leadership demands."

High-profile frontbencher Phillips, who was one of the most senior Labour MPs to resign, said she was quitting with a "heavy heart".

"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," she said in a letter to her party leader.

Israel has been indiscriminately and relentlessly pounding the besieged Gaza Strip since October 7, killing over 11,500 Palestinians - including over 4,000 children.

Tel Aviv has also placed the territory under a complete siege, depriving its 2.3 million population from water, food and fuel. Many hospitals - including Al-Shifa are out of service as a result.

The row over the Starmer's stance on Israel's war with Gaza has escalated in Labour in the past week.

Starmer - who looks set to become Britain's next prime minister at an election expected next year, according to polling - has refused to call for a permanent ceasefire.

Instead, the former human rights lawyer has called for a humanitarian pause to Israel's onslaught to allow much-needed aid to reach ordinary Palestinians unable to leave the coastal enclave.

His stance, however, has caused disquiet within the party.

A Labour spokesman claimed a ceasefire would freeze the conflict and "leave hostages in Gaza and Hamas with the infrastructure and capability to carry out the sort of attack we saw on October 7".

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"International law must be followed at all times and innocent civilians must be protected. Labour is calling for humanitarian pauses in the fighting."

As a result, the opposition party has received criticism for its stance from pro-Palestinian activists, as well as a number of MPs.