Starmer loses eight staff in major Gaza ceasefire standoff

Sir Keir Starmer has suffered a major backlash over his stance on the Gaza conflict, losing eight MPs as dozens of Labor MPs backed a ceasefire.

The high-profile shadow minister for domestic violence, Jess Phillips, stood down from a number of colleagues including Yasmin Qureshi, Afzal Khan and Paula Barker on Wednesday evening after he decided to back an SNP amendment to the King's Speech supporting ceasefire.

Four other frontbenchers: Rachel Hopkins, Sarah Owen, Naz Shah and Andy Slaughter, have also quit the frontbench after cracking the party whip to back the amendment.

Parliamentary private secretaries Dan Carden and Mary Foy joined them in quitting their posts.

I am sorry that some colleagues felt unable to support the position tonight. But I wanted to be clear about where I stood and where I will stand

Sir Keir Starmer, Labor leader

MPs voted by 293 to 125, a majority of 168, to reject an amendment to the SNP's King's Speech calling for “all parties to agree to an immediate ceasefire” in Gaza.

However, 56 Labor MPs backed the position, rejecting their party leader's stance and defying a three-line whip.

Labor MPs had been ordered to stay away from the SNP's move and instead told to support Sir Keir's position calling for longer “humanitarian pauses” instead of a ceasefire.

In a statement after the vote, Sir Keir said he regretted that his party colleagues did not support his position.

“Along with leaders around the world, I have called for international law to be respected, for humanitarian pauses to allow access to aid, food, water, utilities and medicine, and have expressed our concerns about the scale of the loss civilians.

“Much more needs to be done in this regard to alleviate the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza.

“And, in addition to dealing with the present, every leader has a duty not to return to a failed strategy of containment and neglect, but to forge a better and more secure future for both Palestinians and Israelis.

“I am sorry that some colleagues felt unable to support the position tonight. But I wanted to be clear about where I was and where I would stand.”

The UN Security Council on Wednesday adopted a resolution calling for “urgent and extensive humanitarian pauses and corridors throughout the Gaza Strip.”

It came after Israeli troops stormed Gaza's largest hospital after surrounding Shifa Hospital for days.

Ms Phillips, a prominent frontbencher, said it was with a “heavy heart” that she resigned.

I must take this opportunity to vote with my constituents, my head and my heart which has felt as if it has been broken over the last four weeks by the horror of the situation in Israel and Palestine

Jess Phillips, Labor MP

“I tried to do everything I could to ensure that this was not the outcome, but it is with a heavy heart that I am stepping down from my position in the Home Office shadow team.

“On this occasion I must vote with my constituents, my head and my heart which has felt like it has been broken for the last four weeks by the horror of the situation in Israel and Palestine,” she said in a letter to her party. leader.

Some of the MPs had signaled their intention to break with Sir Keir in the Commons debate ahead of the vote, having already publicly called for a ceasefire.

Ms Shah warned of a “humanitarian disaster”, while Mr Khan told the room that “constituents have demanded” a ceasefire.

Manchester MP Gorton told the Commons: “If we had a ceasefire yesterday, 144 Gazan children would still be alive today. Israel has already crossed every imaginable red line and violated international humanitarian laws.

The scale of the rebellion will be a blow to Sir Keir, who had hoped to avoid further damaging splits within his parliamentary party over the issue.

The party has been divided by internal disputes over Israel's response to the deadly Hamas invasion that sparked the conflict.

The leadership backed the UK government's position to push for humanitarian pauses in the fighting to allow aid to Palestinians trapped in the bombed-out territories, but stopped short of calling for a complete cessation of hostilities.

The situation in Gaza desperately calls for an immediate ceasefire to address the humanitarian catastrophe and advance moves towards a political solution that brings freedom, prosperity and security

Yasmin Qureshi, Labor MP

But Sir Keir's allies insisted he had no choice but to take a firm line with the rebels.

Peter Kyle, the shadow science secretary, said the party's leadership had allowed a “very wide-ranging debate”.

“But there are key moments, if you are the party that seeks to run the country and you want to be the prime minister of our country on the international stage, where you have to show that we are a united party that can handle itself in Parliament and in government.” , he told ITV's Peston show.