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Sir Keir Starmer was poised to sack at least three of his top men on Wednesday night after they vowed to defy the Labor leader and support a parliamentary motion calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.
Naz Shah, shadow crime minister and MP for Bradford West, told the House of Commons she wanted to do “what is right” regardless of the possible impact on her own position. “We cannot expect peace unless we ensure justice,” she said.
She pointed to the Biden administration’s reluctance to pressure Israel to rein in its military in Gaza, adding: “It is a matter of conscience to withdraw from our closest ally in the interests of peace.” . In today’s motion, I will support the amendment seeking an immediate ceasefire,” she added.
Afzal Khan, MP for Manchester Gorton and shadow minister for exports, said he would also support an amendment to the King’s Speech put forward by the Scottish National Party, which will be voted on at around 7pm. “If we had a ceasefire yesterday, 144 children in Gaza would be alive today. Israel has already crossed every possible red line and violated international humanitarian laws,” he said.
Shadow children’s minister Helen Hayes, MP for the London constituency of Dulwich and West Norwood, said she would also vote for the SNP.
Starmer, who has already lost a shadow minister due to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when Imran Hussein was forced to resign as shadow labor minister last week, has made it clear to his group that they will be sacked if they support the motion.
About 20 top officials – either junior shadow ministers or whips – have so far defied their leader in various forums in recent weeks and called for a ceasefire. Charities have described the situation in Gaza as humanitarian disaster with more than 11,000 dead as a result of the Israeli attack.
Labor has put forward its own amendment criticizing both the Israeli military and Hamas, which still holds around 200 Israeli hostages following the militant Islamist group’s devastating attack on October 7 that killed around 1,200 people.
Starmer supports a “humanitarian pause” in line with the US and UK governments, arguing that a full ceasefire in Gaza would allow Hamas to regroup and carry out further attacks on Israeli civilians.
The Labor leader is facing a rebellion from several MPs, including a large phalanx of the “Campaign Group” of left-wingers who agree with the SNP that there should be a ceasefire. Almost 50 local councilors have resigned from the Labor Party in recent weeks over the issue.
Stephen Flynn, leader of the SNP at Westminster, urged MPs across the House of Commons to vote for his party’s amendment.
“If Westminster refuses to join the United Nations in pushing for an immediate ceasefire, it is flouting international law, condoning collective punishment and giving the green light to the ongoing bombardment of Gaza that has killed thousands of innocent children and civilians,” he said said.
Zara Mohammed, general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, said Starmer had “upset a lot of people” and left them “stunned” when he said during a radio interview in October that it was appropriate for Israel to cut off electricity and water from the Gaza Strip. Starmer later distanced himself from the comments.