Now Labour frontbencher joins rebellion to demand Israel 'ceasefire'

Now furious Labour frontbenchers join rebellion to demand Israel ‘ceasefire’: Party crisis escalates as Keir’s tense crunch meeting with Muslim MPs fails to break standoff – after 150 councillors signed extraordinary letter warning over his stance

Keir Starmer failed to quell Labour wrath today as a frontbencher broke ranks to demand a ceasefire – after he stayed silent on Gaza at PMQs.

The Opposition leader issued a statement backing ‘humanitarian pauses’ and saying Israel should ‘turn back on the supplies it controls’ after a tense meeting with Muslim MPs in Westminster.

But there is little sign of the row abating as deep fault lines are exposed in Labour. The UK and US have been batting away calls for a ceasefire because it would prevent Israel acting against Hamas.

Sir Keir seemed to be desperately trying to avoid inflaming the issue, using all his six questions at the weekly Commons clash to target Rishi Sunak on domestic issues.

But his tactics were immediately undermined when shadow equalities minister Yasmin Qureshi stood up and demanded: ‘How many more innocent Palestinian people must die before this prime minister calls for a humanitarian ceasefire?’

Earlier, an extraordinary letter from 150 councillors was published criticising his stance.   

Sir Keir is also embroiled in a bitter row with a mosque in Wales after community leaders accused him of ‘gravely misrepresenting’ their discussions during a visit at the weekend.

Keir Starmer (right) is scrambling to quell a growing Labour meltdown over his backing for Israel today. He failed to ask Rishi Sunak (left) about the conflict in Gaza at PMQs

Shadow equalities minister Yasmin Qureshi stood up at PMQs and demanded: ‘How many more innocent Palestinian people must die before this prime minister calls for a humanitarian ceasefire? ‘

A letter from 150 councillors this morning demanded he calls for a ceasefire, which the UK and US have not done because it would prevent Israel acting against Hamas

A number of Labour MPs have suffered councillor resignations in their constituencies over the party’s stance on the crisis

A total of 37 Labour MPs have signed a parliamentary motion, tabled by former shadow minister Richard Burgon, calling for an immediate ceasefire 

Sir Keir is embroiled in a bitter row with a mosque in Wales after community leaders accused him of ‘gravely misrepresenting’ their discussions during a visit at the weekend

A Labour spokesman declined to say whether Ms Qureshi would be disciplined. 

The party said it supported calls for ‘humanitarian pauses’ by the PM and US secretary of state Anthony Blinken. 

Criticism of the party leader has focused on an LBC interview where Sir Keir seemed to suggest Israel has the ‘right’ to cut off power and water on Gaza. 

Sir Keir has since denied he ever endorsed Israel withholding humanitarian aid, insisting his remark related to a different question.

However, the clarification has done little to ease the row. Sir Keir’s spokesman today denied he had avoided raising the issue at PMQs for party management reasons, pointing to the fact that it dominated two previous sessions and there have also been other debates.

READ MORE – Rachel Riley: Palestine protesters have right to freedom of speech but NOT to support Hamas 

The Labour leader tried to placate furious members of the Parliamentary party in a meeting after PMQs.

However, allies admitted the meeting – also attended by Angela Rayner – was ‘difficult’ as feelings run high.

In a statement released after the meeting, Sir Keir appeared to shift his language, while still avoiding backing a full ceasefire.

‘It’s clear that the amount of aid and essential utilities getting into Gaza is completely insufficient to meet the humanitarian emergency on the ground,’ he said.

‘That’s why we have repeatedly said that aid, fuel, water, electricity and medicines must be urgently ramped up both through what can come in through the Rafah crossing and through Israel turning back on the supplies it controls.

‘It is incumbent on all parties to make sure that the aid and utilities don’t just get in but reach those who need them. That’s why we’ve said deliveries need to be regular, fast and safe. We welcome Secretary Blinken’s comments last night and we support humanitarian pauses.

‘In the long term there can only be a political solution to this crisis which is why we need to restart the hard work of talks for a two-state solution of a viable Palestinian state alongside a safe and secure Israel.’

This morning Shadow Treasury minister Darren Jones insisted it was a ‘routine’ engagement. 

He told Times Radio: ‘It is perfectly normal for MPs — we all represent different constituencies around the country — to want to speak to the leader of our party.

‘I’m sure it is the same in other political parties where there are issues that constituents are raising with us. And the meeting this afternoon is another example of that.

‘And, understandably, this is a very sensitive and emotive issue, both for people who have connections and relatives to the Palestinian people as well as the Israeli people, and it is perfectly normal for Keir to sit down and listen to colleagues in the parliamentary party and indeed our councillors and other members from across the country.

‘So, a routine meeting and this is another example of that.’

After PMQs former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, a close associate of Jeremy Corbyn, called for Parliament to be recalled if Gaza is invaded. The Commons is due to rise ahead of the King’s Speech on November 7.

It comes after Sir Keir visited the South Wales Islamic Centre on Sunday, posting images showing him meeting figures from the local community. 

In a post on X, he said: ‘I was grateful to hear from the Muslim community of the South Wales Islamic Centre.

‘I repeated our calls for all hostages to be released, more humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, for the water and power to be switched back on, and a renewed focus on the two state solution.’

Sir Keir said he was ‘questioned by members’ and ‘made clear it is not and has never been my view that Israel had the right to cut off water, food, fuel or medicines. International law must be followed’.

But, in a statement last night, the South Wales Islamic Centre apologised for the ‘hurt and confusion’ caused by hosting Sir Keir.

The centre’s statement said: ‘We wish to stress Keir Starmer’s social media post and images gravely misrepresented our congregants and the nature of the visit.

In a statement last night, the South Wales Islamic Centre apologised for the ‘hurt and confusion’ caused by hosting Sir Keir

‘We affirm, unequivocally, the need for a free Palestine. We implore all those with political authority to uphold international law, and to end the occupation of Palestine.’

The centre said it wanted to ‘apologise for the hurt and confusion that our hosting of this visit has caused’.

It added: ‘Our intention was to raise the concerns of the Muslim community around the suffering if Palestinians, and so we hosted an event initially with local representatives on the issue, and the knowledge of Keir Starmer’s attendance was given at short notice.

‘There was a robust and frank conversation which reflected the sentiments Muslim communities are feeling at this time. Members of the community directly challenged Keir on his statements made on the Israeli Government’s right to cut food, electricity and water to Gaza, warranting war crimes as well as his failure to call for an immediate ceasefire.’

Full text of Labour Muslim councillors’ letter to Keir Starmer over Gaza position

Dear Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner,

We the undersigned write to you as Muslim Labour Party councillors, formally calling on the Labour Party to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and an end to the humanitarian disaster.

5,791 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza since 7th October. Of those killed 2,360 of them have been children. It has also been reported that 704 Palestinians had been killed in the previous 24 hours alone. This is in addition to 1400 Israelis who lost their lives in the shocking terror attacks of October 7th.

Everyday we fail to call on the government and the international community to push for cessation of hostilities, Gazan children and hundreds of innocent men and women pay the price. As a party that bases it’s principles on fairness and justice, we can not sit idly by as Palestinian’s face collective punishment.

This week five UN agencies, including The World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have called for a humanitarian ceasefire as they described the conditions in Gaza as ‘catastrophic’. Leaders across all faiths, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, have also called for a ceasefire and polling shows the vast majority of Britons and Labour voters support this position (YouGov poll: 76% of the British public support a ceasefire).

The humanitarian aid that has passed through into Gaza through the Rafah crossing is a ‘drop in the ocean’ compared to the humanitarian crisis at large in the region. Without an immediate ceasefire, UN agencies, NGO’s and charities have made it clear that much needed aid will not reach pregnant women, children, critically ill patients and those others that will simply be left to die.

Gaza is home to 2.2 million people, over half of whom are children. Before this crisis began, over 80% of the population relied on aid, now this crisis has turned to catastrophe. The innocent civilians in Gaza have had nothing to do with this crisis and bear no responsibility to its outcome.

As Labour councillors elected to serve our constituents, the message we have been hearing repeatedly over the past 2 weeks is simple, people just want an end to the bloodshed and the loss of innocent life. No nation, no people or community should have to endure collective punishment and the same should be the case for the Palestinian people. We are also clear that hostages held captive must also be returned to their families safely.

Therefore, as Labour Party councillors, as members, and as members of the Muslim community we urge the Labour Party to urgently adopt a position of calling for an immediate ceasefire, calling on the UK government and the international community to act upon this proposal to save innocent human lives.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Summya Sohaib – Barking and Dagenham

Cllr Fatuma Nalule – Barking and Dagenham

Cllr Saima Ashraf, Deputy Leader – Barking and Dagenham

Cllr Manzoor Hussain – Barking and Dagenham

Cllr Muhammad Saleem, Chair of Planning Committee – Barking and Dagenham

Cllr Sabbir Zamee – Barking and Dagenham

Cllr Regina Rahman – Barking and Dagenham

Cllr Syed Ghani , Cabinet Member – Barking and Dagenham

Cllr Abu Sultan, Group Whip – Bedford Borough

Cllr Majid Mahmood , Cabinet Member for Environment – Birmingham City Council

Cllr Saima Suleman, Cabinet Member – Birmingham City Council

Cllr Zafar Iqbal – Birmingham City Council

Cllr Basharat Mahmood – Birmingham City Council

Cllr Shabina Bano – Birmingham City Council

Cllr Shafique Shah – Birmingham City Council

Cllr Shehla Moledina – Birmingham City Council

Cllr Waseem Zaffar – Birmingham City Council

Cllr Mohammed Idrees, Chair of Homes O&S Committee – Birmingham City Council

Cllr Bushra Bi – Birmingham City Council

Cllr Mariam Khan, Cabinet Member – Birmingham City Council

Cllr Mohammed Ziaul Islam – Birmingham City Council

Cllr Shabrana Hussain, Scrutiny Chair – Birmingham City Council

Cllr Amar Khan – Birmingham City Council

Cllr Waseem Zaffar – Birmingham City Council

Cllr Saima Ahmed – Birmingham City Council

Cllr Saddak Miah – Birmingham City Council

Cllr Rashad Mahmood – Birmingham City Council

Cllr Shaukat Hussain – Blackburn Council

Cllr Sonia Khan – Blackburn Council

Cllr Sabiya khan – Blackburn Council

Cllr Safwaan Patel – Bolton Council

Cllr Ibrar Hussain – Bradford Council

Cllr Mohammad Amran – Bradford Council

Cllr Mohammed Amran – Bradford Council

Cllr Tariq Dar MBE – Brent Council

Cllr Sandra Kabir – Brent Council

Cllr Saqlain Choudry – Brent Council

Cllr Rita Begum – Brent Council

Cllr Saqib Butt, Vice Chair Planning Committee – Brent Council

Cllr Ishma Moeen – Brent Council

Cllr Majid Hussain – Buckinghamshire Council

Cllr Ummrana Farooq – Bury Council

Cllr Ayesha Arif – Bury council

Cllr Babar Ibrahim – Bury Council

Cllr Tamoor Tariq, Deputy Leader of the Council – Bury Council

Cllr Shaheena Haroon – Bury Metropolitan Council

Cllr Shaheena Haroon – Bury Metropolitan Council

Cllr Shaheena Haroon – Bury Metropolitan Council

Cllr Hanif. Raja MBE – City Council Glasgow

Cllr Imran Alam – City Council Glasgow

Cllr Rashid Hussain – City Council Glasgow

Cllr Saqib Ahmed – City Council Glasgow

Cllr Soryia Siddique, Deputy Leader – City Council Glasgow

Cllr Majid Khan – Doncaster City Council

Cllr Shaneila Mughal, Shadow Cabinet Member – Dudley MBC

Cllr Qadar Zada – Dudley MBC

Cllr Dr Aysha Raza – Ealing Council

Cllr Arshad Ahsan Afsar – East Staffordshire Borough Council

Cllr Ali Chaudhry – East Staffordshire Borough Council

Cllr Soraya Adejare – Hackney Council

Cllr Humaira Garasia – Hackney Council

Cllr Ghazanfar Ali , Former Mayor – Harrow Council

Cllr Labina Basit – Hillingdon Council

Cllr Jilani Chowdhury – Islington Council

Cllr Saiqa Pandor – Islington Council

Cllr Ilkay Cinko-Oner – Islington Council

Cllr Ibtisam Adem, Policy Lead – Sanctuary Services – Lambeth Council

Cllr Yousuf Motala – Lancashire County Council

Cllr Javaid Akhtar, Chair Labour Group – Leeds City Council

Cllr Mohammed Iqbal – Leeds City Council

Cllr Mahalia France-Mir – Leeds City Council

Mohammed Shahzad – Leeds City Council

Cllr Mohammad Rafique, Cabinet Member – Leeds City Council

Cllr Zara Hussain – Leeds City Council

Cllr Salma Arif, Cabinet Member – Leeds City Council

Cllr Asghar Khan, Scrutiny Chairman – Leeds City Council

Cllr Gohar Almass – Leeds City Council

Cllr Raffiq Moosa Mohammed – Leicester City Council

Cllr Hanif Aqbany – Leicester City Council

Cllr Yasmin Surti – Leicester City Council

Cllr Misbah Batool – Leicester City Council

Cllr Fatima Begum – Luton Council

Cllr Tahmina Saleem, Portfolio Holder Children’s Services – Luton Council

Cllr Yaqub Hanif, Mayor of Luton – Luton Council

Cllr Zanib Raja – Luton Council

Cllr Umme Ali – Luton Council

Cllr Alia Khan, Chief Whip – Luton Council

Cllr Mahmood Hussain – Luton Council

Cllr Naeem ul Hassan – Manchester City Council

Cllr Yasmine Dar, Lord Mayor – Manchester City Council

Cllr Fiaz Riasat – Manchester City Council

Cllr Zahid Hussain – Manchester City Council

Cllr Shaukat Ali – Manchester City Council

Cllr Abid Chohan – Manchester City Council

Cllr Shazia Butt – Manchester City Council

Cllr Zulfiqar Ali, Cabinet Member for Finance & Resources – Newham Council

Cllr Zuber Gulamussen – Newham Council

Cllr Mariam Dawood – Newham Council

Cllr Salim Patel – Newham Council

Cllr Nur begum- Newham Council

Cllr Imam Haque – Newham Council

Cllr Mumtaz Khan, Deputy Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care – Newham Council

Cllr Sabia kamali, Cabinet Member – Newham Council

Cllr Salim Patel – Newham Council

Cllr Liaqat Ali – Nottingham City Council

Cllr Salma Mumtaz – Nottingham City Council

Cllr Mohammad Ammer – Pendle Borough Council

Cllr Ruby Anwar – Pendle Borough Council

Cllr Zafar Ali, Executive Portfolio Holder – Pendle Borough Council

Cllr Juma Begum – Redditch Borough Council

Cllr Sid Khan, Chief Whip – Redditch Borough Council

Cllr Carol Wardle, Cabinet member – Rochdale Borough Council

Cllr Mohammad Arshad – Rochdale Borough Council

Cllr Aasim Rashid, Former Mayor – Rochdale Borough Council

Cllr Shahid Mohammed – Rochdale Borough Council

Cllr Saghir Alam, Cabinet Member – Rotherham Council

Cllr Tajamal khan – Rotherham Council

Cllr Taiba Yasseen, Chair of Health Select Commission – Rotherham Council

Cllr Mohammed Bakhtiar – Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

Cllr Nabeela Mowlana – Sheffield City Council

Cllr Mazher Iqbal – Sheffield City Council

Cllr Nighat Basharat – Sheffield City Council

Cllr Safiya Saeed – Sheffield City Council

Cllr Zaffar Ajaib – Slough Borough Council

Cllr Sabia Akram – Slough Borough Council

Cllr Maroof Bibi Mohammad – Slough Borough Council

CllrMohammed Nazir – Slough Borough Council

Cllr Forhad Chowdhury – Stevenage Borough Council

Cllr Nazmin Chowdhury – Stevenage Borough Council

Cllr Amjid wazir, Deputy leader – Stoke Council

Cllr Majid khan,Lord Mayor – Stoke-on-Trent Council

Cllr Waseem Akbar – Stoke-on-Trent Council

Cllr Naila Sharif – Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council

Cllr Tafheen Sharif – Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council

Cllr Mohammad Chowdhury, Secretary Labour Group – Tower Hamlets Council

Cllr Faroque Mahfuza Ahmed – Tower Hamlets Council

Cllr Asma Islam Group Chair – Tower Hamlets Council

Cllr Sabina Akhtar, Group Whip – Tower Hamlets Council

Cllr Abdal Ullah – Tower Hamlets Council

Cllr Armaan Khan – Wakefield Council

Cllr Saqa Nasreen – Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council

Cllr Aftab Nawaz , Leader of Labour Group -Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council

Cllr Farhana Hassan – Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council

Cllr Shakila Begum Hussain – Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council

Cllr Naheed Gultasib, Shadow Cabinet Member- Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council

Cllr Abdus Nazir – Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council

Cllr Khizar Hussain, Deputy leader – Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council

Cllr Hajran Bashir – Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council

Cllr Sabina Ditta , Shadow Cabinet Education – Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council

Cllr Ahsan Khan, Deputy Leader – Waltham Forest Council

Cllr Shabana Dhedhi – Waltham Forest Council

Cllr Aydin Dikerdem, Cabinet Member for Housing – Wandsworth Council

Cllr Asif Khan – Watford Council

Cllr Hamza Taouzzale – Westminster City Council

Cllr Abdul Aziz Toki – Chair Audit Performance committee, Chair of License Committee Westminster City Council

Cllr Liza Begum, Cabinet Member for Housing Services -Westminster City Council

Cllr Obaida Ahmed, Cabinet Member for Digital and Community Inclusion – Wolverhampton City Council

Cllr Iqra Tahir – Wolverhampton City Council

Cllr Qaiser Azeem – Wolverhampton City Council

Cllr Jabba Riaz, Deputy leader – Worcester City Council

Cllr Basharat Ali – Worcester City Council

As mass resignations by councillors show, there’s a deep split in Labour over Israel which Starmer can’t control much longer, says Tom Harris, former Labour minister 

A general election is expected in less than a year. Sir Keir Starmer recently overturned two massive majorities to win crucial by-elections. Opinion polls place his party a solid 20 points ahead of the Tories.

But yesterday, instead of savouring the tantalising aroma of power, Labour activists were busy trying to stage an online insurrection.

The hysterical hashtag ‘StarmerOutNOW’ was trending on X, formerly known as Twitter, as Corbynite ideologues united to vent their fury at the party leadership.

What had sparked this latest Leftie tantrum was, inevitably, Starmer’s robust stance on Israel in the wake of Hamas’s barbaric attacks earlier this month.

On Monday in the Commons, he defended Israel’s ‘right to defend herself’ with adamantine clarity, defying calls from sections of his own party for a ‘ceasefire’.

But, while Starmer’s position on the conflict is pretty clear, the truth is that there is a deep split within the Labour party on the question of Israel — and has been for a long time.

The party that remains the favourite to win the next election is hopelessly divided when it comes to one basic question: Are you on the side of a free democracy trying to defend itself against a genocidal enemy, or do you waver and say, well, it’s complicated?

Two weeks ago, the Labour leader had gone further still, telling LBC radio that Israel ‘does have that right’ to cut off water and power to the Gaza Strip in response to Hamas’s attacks. (Labour later suggested his remarks had been misconstrued.)

But, while Starmer’s position on the conflict is pretty clear, the truth is that there is a deep split within the Labour party on the question of Israel — and has been for a long time.

The party that remains the favourite to win the next election is hopelessly divided when it comes to one basic question: Are you on the side of a free democracy trying to defend itself against a genocidal enemy, or do you waver and say, well, it’s complicated?

At least 23 Labour councillors have resigned the whip in response to Starmer’s stance on the conflict. Some 72 have written him an ‘open letter’ saying they had lost confidence in him as leader.

In a separate statement, six Oxford councillors wrote: ‘This is a direct threat to our democratic rights. We no longer feel we can serve as Labour councillors… in a choice between serving our parties or justice, we have chosen justice.’

In Scotland, 15 officials have resigned, with some accusing the Scottish party of ‘stifling democracy’ after a motion calling for an end to military action was ruled out of order.

And in the UK Parliament, more than one in six Labour MPs has now called on Israel to stop its bombing campaign against Hamas — a military action aimed squarely at killing the terror group’s murderous zealots while minimising civilian casualties.

Everyone wants to see peace in the region, but a ceasefire now would give Hamas the opportunity to prepare another incursion into Israeli territory, slaughtering grandmothers and babies once again.

Yet this simple fact seems to elude the 36 Labour MPs who backed a Parliamentary motion tabled last week by the ultra-Left MP Richard Burgon. (You may remember him as the Corbynista who once averred that ‘Zionism is the enemy of peace’ and then denied having done so until proof emerged that he had.)

Burgon’s motion dispensed with Hamas’s atrocities in a mere 13 words, and spent the next 200 words condemning Israel, the victim of those attacks.

Such double-standards, of course, are of a piece with Labour’s Corbynista faction.

Corbyn himself may now suffer the indignity of sitting as an independent in the Commons after Starmer kicked him out of the party for claiming, in a moment of genuine disgrace, that reports of anti-Semitism in the party had been ‘dramatically overstated’.

But though he is no longer in Labour, the bearded Marxist remains a godlike figure to activists — and his ubiquitous presence at pro-Palestine rallies, to say nothing of his cult-like following on social media, are deeply unwelcome to the leadership.


Only this week, Rishi Sunak publicly reminded Corbyn in the Commons that he once described the butchers of Hamas as ‘friends’. (Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy particularly relished this barb.)

Corbyn’s ex-shadow chancellor John McDonnell — who attended a pro-Palestine fringe event at Labour Party conference — was another signatory to Burgon’s motion, as was long-term Leftist Barry Gardiner.

But other names were more surprising — and it is abundantly clear that Labour’s issues with Israel run deeper.

I have long been aware of this: I was a Labour member for 34 years, 14 of them as an MP, including as a minister. But, in the Commons, I frequently came across a stubborn refusal to recognise the real dangers of Islamism.

One fellow MP even refused to acknowledge to me that extreme Islamism posed any kind of threat to our way of life, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary. Labour MPs who refuse to condemn Hamas and to support Israel, our natural ally, bring shame on their party.

It concerns me deeply that several apparently moderate Labour MPs are also failing to fall on the right side in a straightforward battle against evil. The Blairite Sir Stephen Timms added his name to Burgon’s motion — even though he himself was a victim of Islamist terrorism in 2010, when he was stabbed during a constituency surgery by an attacker wielding a six-inch kitchen knife.

While his London constituency of East Ham has a large minority Muslim electorate, at least 31 Labour MPs represent constituencies with a majority of Muslim voters, including firebrand Deputy Leader Angela Rayner and shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liz Kendall.

For now at least, Starmer knows he is in a strong position — and he is willing to face down the elements of his party urging a ‘ceasefire’.

He understands, too, that he still has work to do repairing the disastrous anti-Semitism of the Corbyn years. Taking a robust line on Israel, in its hour of need, is right politically as well as morally.

But the splits in Labour are not going away. Two or three years from now, under a future Starmer government, it is easy to envision a cacophony of anti-Israel voices growing to a screeching crescendo.

If large numbers of Labour backbenchers are implacably opposed to the actions of Israel, if every effort made by the Israeli Defence Forces to protect its citizens is condemned by government MPs as ‘war crimes’, how could a Labour foreign secretary do his or her job?

These splits go beyond mere policy. They could have dire implications for Britain’s security and our place in the world.

  • Tom Harris is former Labour MP for Glasgow South and was a transport minister from 2006 to 2008.

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