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Sir Keir Starmer faces a flood of resignations or sackings on Wednesday as some of the Labor leader’s top officials consider disobeying him and supporting calls for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Following a debate on the King’s Speech, the Scottish National Party tabled an amendment calling for an immediate ceasefire. If the Speaker of the House of Commons chooses him, a vote follows.
This poses a dilemma for almost 20 Labor leaders who have publicly called for a ceasefire despite Starmer’s support for a temporary “humanitarian pause”.
Labor MPs have been told by party leaders they will be told to abstain from voting on the SNP amendment. They are threatened with expulsion from all leadership positions if they support them.
Imran Hussain was forced to resign as shadow labor rights minister last week after he defied leadership and signed a parliamentary motion calling for a ceasefire.
Labor has drawn up its own, more nuanced amendment designed to appeal to all sides of the party. A spokesman said it reflected “our concerns about what we have seen on the ground over the last two weeks”.
But Starmer is prepared for a frontline uprising as pressure grows on her from activists and voters to take a stronger position against the Israeli bombings, which have so far claimed more than 11,000 lives in Gaza, according to the health ministry there. “I would be surprised if we didn’t have a spate of resignations,” said one shadow minister.
The Labor leader wants to demonstrate party discipline in a week in which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was forced to sack his home secretary and carry out a major Cabinet reshuffle.
Starmer has argued that a ceasefire would give Hamas the infrastructure and capability to carry out further terror attacks, which killed at least 1,400 Israelis on October 7.
A Labor MP said Starmer risked falling behind other leaders as several European states, including Spain and Ireland, pushed for a ceasefire. He assumed that the United States would soon join them.
“You have to ask who is advising him. Because at some point Biden will inevitably call for a ceasefire and we will lag behind,” the representative said.
He added that colleagues were facing a backlash from left-wing and Muslim voters in their constituencies: “There is a lot of hostility. These communities have traditionally supported Labor for decades, but now MPs are experiencing protests outside their offices and [are] need to increase their security.”
Ian Lavery, former party leader under Jeremy Corbyn, said that while there were no mosques in his constituency of Wansbeck, he had received “hundreds of emails, each calling for a ceasefire and opposing Labour’s support for a humanitarian one “For them it means giving people help and food and then bombing them again.”
Labor has already lost 46 councilors in recent weeks and is increasingly concerned about grassroots efforts to field candidates against the party in next year’s general election.
Imtiaz Patel, a pro-Palestinian protester, told the FT he had approached a sitting Labor MP with an offer to crowdfund £200,000 to stand down and stand again as an independent in a by-election.
Although the MP rejected the offer, it illustrates broader attempts by pro-Palestinian activists to organize against the Labor Party.
“Labour MPs in seats with particularly large Muslim populations should be particularly concerned”. . We are closely monitoring who is speaking out and calling for a ceasefire and who is not,” Patel said.
Another person familiar with grassroots organizing efforts said: “Labour has decided it can lose the Muslim vote.” . We’re looking at what to do in the next election cycle.”