Keir reeling as TEN front bench MPs defy him in Gaza vote
THE Labour Party was reeling last night after ten frontbench MPs defied leader Keir Starmer’s authority and voted for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Eight shadow ministers, including Jess Phillips and Naz Shah, and two parliamentary private secretaries joined 46 Labour backbenchers in voting for an SNP amendment to the King’s Speech demanding the Government call for an ‘immediate ceasefire’.
They had been under a three-line whip to back their own party’s amendment, which only went so far as to call for longer humanitarian pauses.
But Home Office spokesman Ms Shah made an impassioned speech before the vote confirming they would rebel against Sir Keir, while exports spokesman Afzal Khan and Yasmin Qureshi (equalities) resigned to side with the SNP.
Ms Phillips, Paula Barker, Sarah Owen, Rachel Hopkins, Dan Carden, Andy Slaughter and Mary Foy also voted for the amendment.
Ms Phillips, Ms Qureshi, Mr Khan and Ms Barker quit the Shadow Cabinet after deciding to back the SNP amendment. Ms Hopkins, Ms Owen, Ms Shah, Mr Slaughter, Mr Carden and Ms Foy were sacked after breaking the party whip.
The SNP amendment was defeated by 294 votes to 125. Labour’s amendment also failed by 290 votes to 183.
The votes resulted in an angry demonstration by proPalestine protesters in Westminster last night. Organisers said more than 150 pro-Palestine marches will sweep across Britain this Saturday instead of one London protest.
Ms Phillips said: ‘I must vote with my constituents, my head, and my heart which has
‘I must vote with my head’
felt as if it were breaking over the last four weeks with the horror of the situation in Israel and Palestine.’
Sir Keir said: ‘I regret 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. Leadership is about doing the right thing.
‘That is the least the public deserves. And the least that leadership demands.’
Sir Keir’s official spokesman confirmed that while frontbenchers had been given the space to speak in favour of a ceasefire, they should expect to be sacked if they did not follow the instructions. ‘This is a whipped vote and every MP knows what the consequence of that means,’ he said.
Labour business spokesman Jonathan Reynolds added: ‘It’s not a free vote.
‘If they’ve made a decision as a parliamentarian that they can’t be part of that collective decision, they won’t be on the frontbench.’
Nearly 70 Labour MPs had defied their leader to call for a ceasefire in public, including 19 members of the Shadow Cabinet. Last week levelling up spokesman Imran Hussain resigned so he could ‘strongly advocate for a ceasefire’ from the backbenches.
But some of those who chose to stay in their roles and pressure the leadership from within refused to hold out any longer. During yesterday’s debate in Parliament, Ms Shah said: ‘Every inch of the Gaza Strip has been bombed.
‘Make no mistake – this is a humanitarian catastrophe, which is why I urge members to back an immediate ceasefire on all sides and push for the release of hostages. Despite all the risk to our personal positions, we must do what it is right. The question is not if there will be a ceasefire, but when.’
Labour foreign spokesman David Lammy told MPs: ‘It is hard to see a ceasefire come about if Hamas are not prepared to lay down their arms and let those hostages free.’
Rebels were summoned in to see the Labour leader throughout the day after the wording of the amendment failed to bring round many frontbenchers. A source close to the rebels said: ‘It’s too little, too late from the leadership. The party has been shifting position slightly but can’t bring themselves to call for a ceasefire.’