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Sir Keir left reeling after rebellion over Gaza vote

Ten frontbenchers among 56 Labour MPs to defy Starmer and back immediate ceasefire

SIR KEIR STARMER was reeling today after facing the biggest rebellion of his leadership over his backing for Israel’s continuing war on Gaza.

Ten frontbenchers were among 56 Labour MPs backing a Commons amendment urging an immediate ceasefire, nearly a third of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

The front-bench rebels who did not resign were immediately sacked by the vindictive Sir Keir, as 15,000 peace demonstrators rallied outside the Commons chanting “No ceasefire, no vote,” in a warning to politicians.

Prominent among those voting for peace was Jess Phillips, an MP on the right of the party who stood for the leadership in 2020.

She wrote to Sir Keir explaining that continuing war puts “at risk the hope of peace and security for anyone in the region now and in the future” and added on local radio today that she had voted with “my heart, my head and my constituents.”

The other shadow ministers who either quit or were sacked were Paula Barker, Rachel Hopkins, Afzal Khan, Sarah Owen, Yasmin Qureshi, Naz Shah and Andy Slaughter. 

Two parliamentary private secretaries, Dan Carden and Mary Foy also resigned. Shadow minister Imran Hussain resigned last week.

Ms Shah told Wednesday’s Commons debate that “this is an issue that the British public feel strongly about. Had we called for a ceasefire today, 144 children might still be alive.”

Mr Khan told MPs that “Israel has already crossed every red line imaginable and broken international humanitarian laws.”

There was anger today at other MPs, however, who posed as being for a ceasefire but failed to vote for one, like Helen Hayes, Kim Leadbeater and Navendu Mishra, a member of the Socialist Campaign Group.

There were strong rumours that Labour whips had authorised MPs to speak for a ceasefire without sanction, as long as they did not support the call in the voting lobbies.

Ms Hayes, a shadow minister who thus remains in post, claimed that she continued to support a ceasefire but would not vote for an amendment she called “divisive.”

Hundreds of students and schoolchildren protested today at the office of Bethnal Green and Bow MP Rushanara Ali, who talked a good ceasefire but abstained in the Commons, protecting her front-bench post as shadow minister for investment and small business, a likely sign of trouble to come for pro-war MPs in heavily Muslim constituencies.

The amendment, tabled by the Scottish National Party, was defeated by 293 votes to 125, with Labour MPs instructed to abstain. 

The SNP’s Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said today:  “There is growing international momentum for an immediate ceasefire but Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer have opted out of it.”

Sir Keir tried to use the rebellion to burnish his macho image, declaring that “leadership is about doing the right thing. That is the least the public deserves and the least that leadership demands.”

This rhetoric was not calming the mood in the Labour Party however. Six councillors in Walsall became the latest to resign over the Gaza issue today, bringing the number nationwide to nearly 60.

In a statement, the Walsall councillors said that “the failure of the Labour leadership to demand a ceasefire, recognise that the Israeli forces are committing an act of genocide and demand that action is taken against Benjamin Netanyahu and his commanders is unacceptable.

”The communities we represent have asked us many times why Keir cannot bring himself to speak up against these horrific acts?”

Sir Keir’s belligerent stance has already cost Labour control of councils in Burnley and Oxford.

Independent groups of ex-Labour councillors have sprung up across the country and are starting to explore co-ordination, raising the possibility of a deeper split in the party.

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