Dissent over Labour’s stance on the Israel-Hamas war is growing as a series of shadow ministers voiced their support for a ceasefire.
Labour leader Keir Starmer is supporting the Conservative UK Government’s push for “humanitarian pauses” in the fighting to allow aid into Gaza and for people trapped in the bombarded territory to leave.
But he has faced criticism from within his own party over his reluctance to push for a ceasefire.
On Saturday, a host of frontbench Labour MPs broke ranks with the leadership to voice their support for a ceasefire, either with express endorsements or by sharing a call from the Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East (LFPME).
It comes as Israel continued to pummel Gaza into Saturday in what was said to have been one of the heaviest nights of bombing during three weeks of war.
The Israeli military announced that it was expanding its ground offensive in the vicinity of the territory after cutting off communications for its 2.3 million population.
In Britain, thousands of protesters have taken to streets across the country, including London, Manchester, Glasgow and Dundee, in support of the Palestinians.
In Dundee, hundreds of protesters gathered for a demonstration organised by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
Bradford West MP Naz Shah, the shadow minister for crime reduction, tweeted: “What we are seeing is not defence, it is disproportionate attacks on a civilian population.
“I continue to call for a ceasefire to stop the killings of innocent civilians. We cannot be silent.”
Paula Barker, Liverpool Wavertree MP and shadow minister for devolution, backed LFPME’s post on X, formerly known as Twitter, calling for an “immediate ceasefire by all parties”, along with the “unconditional release of all hostages brutally taken by Hamas” and “unfettered humanitarian access” to Gaza.
Barker shared the post, saying: “I fully support these calls.”
Shadow veterans minister and Luton South MP Rachel Hopkins and Sarah Owen, MP for Luton North and shadow minister for local government, also shared LFPME’s post.
It comes after Imran Hussain, shadow minister for the new deal for working people and MP for Bradford East, tweeted on Friday that it was “impossible to imagine the horror that families in Gaza are facing” as he demanded a “ceasefire now”.
Starmer’s team on Saturday said the party’s position on the matter remained unchanged.
It declined to answer when asked if the shadow ministers pushing publicly for a ceasefire would be able to remain in post, having deviated from Labour’s official position.
The signs of a burgeoning front bench rebellion comes after London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar announced on Friday that they were joining the call for a ceasefire.
According to images shared on social media, pro-Palestinian supporters demonstrated on Friday outside the office of the Tower Hamlets Labour Party, an area represented by another shadow minister, Rushanara Ali, in protest at Labour’s stance.
On Wednesday, Muslim Labour MPs used a meeting with Starmer in Parliament to call for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
The Labour leader has sought to quell unhappiness over his position on the conflict, having previously appeared to have said that he supported Israel’s right to deprive Gazans of water, food and fuel in its fightback against the Palestinian militants that killed 1,400 Israelis.
The Hamas-controlled Gaza health ministry has said more than 7,000 people have been killed inside the 25-mile strip of land since Tel Aviv’s October 7 retaliation started.
Starmer comments on the siege, which he has since rowed back from, prompted resignations among Labour councillors and angered the party’s MPs, including those on the frontbenches.
Multiple sources at Wednesday’s meeting, held between Starmer, his deputy Angela Rayner, and around a dozen Muslim MPs, including shadow minister Afzal Khan, described it as a “constructive” exercise in which they expressed their grievances and those of their constituents.
The United Nations General Assembly on Friday approved a non-binding resolution calling for a “humanitarian truce” in Gaza which they said should lead to a cessation of hostilities.
The 193-member world body adopted the resolution by a vote of 120-14 with 45 abstentions, including the UK.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told broadcasters that Hamas had given no indication it “desires or would abide by calls for a ceasefire”.
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