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Sir Keir Starmer has faced a significant rebellion in a recent vote in the House of Commons, resulting in the loss of eight members from his frontbench team. The vote was regarding a ceasefire in Gaza.
Four opposition leaders, namely Jess Phillips, Yasmin Qureshi, Afzal Khan, and Paula Barker, resigned on Wednesday night due to their decision to support an SNP proposal in the King’s Speech that calls for a cessation of hostilities.
Four other frontbench members, Rachel Hopkins, Sarah Owen, Naz Shah, and Andy Slaughter, have also departed from their positions on the frontbench. This came after they defied party orders and supported the amendment.
Dan Carden and Mary Foy, who served as Parliamentary private secretaries, have both resigned from their roles.
The Members of Parliament voted with a majority of 168 to reject the Scottish National Party’s amendment to the King’s Speech, which called for all parties to agree to a ceasefire in Gaza.
However, 56 members of the Labour party supported the stance, going against their party leader’s position.
The Labour Members of Parliament were instructed to not participate in the SNP’s action and were advised to support Sir Keir’s stance, which called for extended “humanitarian pauses” rather than a complete ceasefire.
After the vote, Sir Keir expressed disappointment that his party colleagues did not support his stance.
I, along with other leaders globally, have consistently urged for the following: compliance with international laws, temporary halts in fighting to permit aid, essential supplies, and medical assistance, and have voiced our apprehensions regarding the high number of innocent lives lost.
More efforts are required to alleviate the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
Furthermore, it is the responsibility of all leaders to not repeat past failures and instead work towards creating a stronger and safer future for both Palestinians and Israelis.
I am sorry that some of my coworkers were unable to back the stance tonight. However, I wanted to make it known where I stand and where I will continue to stand.
Ms. Phillips, a prominent member of the frontbench, announced that she was resigning with a feeling of sadness.
I have made every effort to prevent this from happening, but it is with great sadness that I must announce my departure from my role in the Home Office team.
“In this instance, I must align my vote with the needs of my constituents, my own judgement, and my heartfelt emotions. The past four weeks have been heartbreaking, as I have been deeply affected by the ongoing crisis in Israel and Palestine,” she stated in a letter addressed to her party leader.
A few Members of Parliament had indicated their plan to separate from Sir Keir during the debate in the House of Commons before the vote, despite previously publicly urging for a ceasefire.
Ms. Shah cautioned about a potential “humanitarian disaster,” while Mr. Khan stated to the assembly that his constituents have requested a halt in hostilities.
The extent of the uprising will come as a blow to Sir Keir, as he had desired to prevent any further divisions within his political party over this matter.
The party has been divided from within due to disagreements on Israel’s actions in response to Hamas’ deadly attack, which triggered the conflict.
The leaders have supported the stance of the UK Government in advocating for temporary halts in the violence to enable aid to reach Palestinians who are trapped in the heavily attacked area. However, they have not explicitly called for a complete end to hostilities.
A number of the members of the frontbench expressed their reasons for disagreeing with Sir Keir’s position.
Ms Qureshi, who represents Bolton South East, said: “The situation in Gaza desperately requires an immediate ceasefire to address the humanitarian catastrophe and to advance moves towards a political solution that brings freedom, prosperity and security.”
Certain members of the Labour party had alleged that the SNP deliberately utilized the amendment to capitalize on conflicts within the party.
SNP’s leader in Westminster, Stephen Flynn, stated that his party’s MPs will be able to have peace of mind knowing they made the correct decision.
He stated that the support for a ceasefire would have been higher tonight had Keir Starmer not warned Labour MPs of consequences if they voted in favor of peace.
Peter Kyle, the opposition’s spokesperson for science, justified the choice to enforce a strong party directive for the amendment instead of permitting a vote of personal choice.
He explained on ITV’s Peston programme that although it is a global policy, it is still important for us to unite as a team and follow it.
Keir has actively interacted with individuals from various communities and traditions within the Labour Party. He has also fostered an environment where people feel comfortable voicing their opinions on these matters. As a party, we have embraced a wide-ranging discussion.
“However, there are significant moments when, as the party vying to govern the country and become the prime minister on the global platform, you must demonstrate our unity as a party and our ability to effectively handle issues in Parliament and the government.”