(CTN NEWS) – Sir Keir Starmer is facing growing pressure to alter his stance on the Israel-Gaza conflict, following a joint call for a ceasefire by prominent Labour figures.
Mayors Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham, along with Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, have publicly supported a ceasefire, putting them at odds with their party leader.
Sir Keir has refrained from explicitly endorsing a ceasefire and has instead advocated for humanitarian pauses to facilitate aid delivery to Gaza.
Steve Reed, a Labour frontbencher, defended Sir Keir’s position by stating that humanitarian pauses allow aid to enter Gaza without preventing Israel from taking action against the attackers who initiated the conflict.
In contrast to a formal ceasefire, humanitarian pauses tend to be of shorter duration, often lasting just a few hours.
Their primary objective is to provide immediate humanitarian relief, rather than achieving long-term political resolutions.
This puts Sir Keir in alignment with the UK government, as well as the positions of the US and the EU.
Israel initiated its bombing campaign in Gaza, cutting off electricity, water, and halting imports of essential goods in response to a cross-border attack by Hamas on October 7, resulting in over 1,400 casualties and 224 people taken hostage.
Gaza’s health system, under Hamas’s control, has reported approximately 7,000 casualties since then and is on the brink of total collapse.
However, he called for a ceasefire to prevent a prolonged conflict in the region and further loss of life.
In a joint statement, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and local council leaders acknowledged Israel’s right to take “targeted action within international law” but expressed profound concerns about the loss of life in Gaza.
They emphasized the urgent need for humanitarian aid and support to be allowed into the area and called for a ceasefire by all parties, along with the safe release of all hostages.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, in a video statement, urged immediate actions, including the release of hostages, access to humanitarian supplies, and an end to violence, both rocket fire into and out of Gaza.
He made it clear that this necessitates an immediate ceasefire.
On Wednesday, Ian Murray, the shadow Scottish secretary, emphasized that Sir Keir Starmer is in a delicate position, as he is likely to become the next prime minister, and therefore, he needs to be cautious about his statements.
While discussing ceasefires and similar measures may seem easy, Murray stressed the need for sensitivity given Starmer’s position.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, when questioned about why the UK wasn’t calling for a halt to the violence, stated that the government would not overstep the line by telling Israel anything other than that it has the right to defend itself.
She added that a humanitarian pause would facilitate the departure of British citizens from Gaza.
Labour Gaza Tensions
Sir Keir Starmer’s position on the Israel-Gaza conflict has stirred growing discomfort within his party.
He faced criticism when he appeared to support Israel’s right to cut off power and water to Gaza, leading to the resignation of around 20 councillors and causing Labour to lose its majority on the local council in Oxford.
In Westminster, 39 Labour MPs, including shadow minister Imran Hussain, have signed a parliamentary petition calling for an “immediate de-escalation and cessation of hostilities.”
These calls for a ceasefire from senior party figures create an uncomfortable situation for the Labour leadership, especially after their recent conference where the focus was on unity rather than past divisions within the party.
So far, most of the dissent has come from councillors, while dozens of Labour MPs have publicly expressed their support for a ceasefire.
Although there have been discussions about frontbenchers considering resignations, it has not materialized.
Senior figures in the party have indicated ongoing engagement with concerned MPs and support for those who have faced threats or abuse due to the party’s stance.
They acknowledge the widespread concern within the party but argue that internal strife, especially if it won’t change the leadership’s position, is not the desired course of action.
The Labour leadership’s position, however, has limited influence on the situation in Israel and Gaza.
Some within the party see it as a matter of principle rather than a strategy to change the situation.
As MPs begin another recess, there may be increasing pressure from constituents on this issue.
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