London Mayor Sadiq Khan has called for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war, becoming the most senior Labor figure to rebel against leader Keir Starmer's stance on Gaza.
Some 49 Labor MPs – almost a quarter of the 199 Labor members of parliament – have now defied the leader's position and publicly called for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Party MPs have been offered security advice as they come under pressure from their constituents over Sir Keir's comments on the conflict.
Joining the rebels in a statement on Twitter / X, Mr Khan said: “Thousands of innocent civilians have already been killed in Israel and Gaza. With the humanitarian crisis worsening even further, I am calling for a ceasefire.”
The Labor mayor of London said the ceasefire would “stop the killing” and “allow vital supplies to reach those who need them in Gaza” in a video.
Sir Keir has joined Rishi Sunak in backing “humanitarian pauses” in aid to Gaza as it faces Israeli airstrikes ahead of a ground invasion, but has not backed a long-term ceasefire.
The Labor leader is still trying to quell anger within the party for appearing to support cutting off electricity and water to Gaza in an interview with LBC days after the Hamas terror attack.
Labor leader Steve Reed defended Sir Keir's position on Friday – insisting that doing the “right” thing was the priority rather than worrying about votes.
Asked if the row could have an impact at the ballot box, the shadow environment secretary told LBC: “I don't think it will because and the reason I think is in politics, you have to do the right thing, not the electorally expedient thing.”
However, senior Labor MP Rosena Allin-Khan, the former shadow mental health secretary, put further pressure on Sir Keir to demand a ceasefire.
“Of course Israel has the right to defend itself… But what we see as retaliation is the collective punishment of the Palestinian people,” he told BBC Radio 4. Today program.
It comes as Labor leader Alan Campbell wrote to party MPs to offer security advice, acknowledging they “may have heightened security concerns”.
Mr Campbell said Labor MPs should be extra careful if they attend “protests and demonstrations” about the conflict in Gaza.
Around 40 Labor MPs are believed to have signed a motion by Bradford East MP Imran Hussain calling for a ceasefire. Several others have publicly supported the ceasefire.
And more than 250 Muslim Labor councilors urged Sir Keir and deputy leader Angela Rayner to back an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza – with his initial comments to LBC also sparking the resignations of several councillors.
Up to four members of the shadow cabinet are said to be eyeing resignations over the matter. Sarah Owen, the shadow faith minister, and Rachel Hopkins, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, are among the frontrunners to consider stepping down, according to The times.
Frontbencher Yasmin Qureshi, a shadow equality minister, also defied the leadership by calling for a ceasefire at PMQs this week. A Labor Party spokesman did not say whether he would be punished.
Sir Keir was forced to hold tough talks with a group of Muslim Labor MPs to address his anger at the handling of the crisis – including comments in which he appeared to support cutting off electricity and water to Gaza.
It was not until October 20 that he tried to clarify his position. “I was saying that Israel has the right to self-defense,” he told television stations. “I was not saying that Israel had the right to cut off water, food, fuel or medicine.”
A veteran Labor MP said The independent that Sir Keir's initial comments on the conflict were “by no means acceptable”, but said he had not “fully acknowledged” the mistake.
The Islamic Center of South Wales also accused Sir Keir this week of “seriously misinterpreting” his talks with Muslim leaders during a weekend visit to the mosque.
The Labor leader sparked outrage after sharing photos of the meeting on X, claiming he had “made it clear that it is not and has never been my view that Israel had the right to cut off water, food, fuel or medicine”.