- Labour has gone only so far as to back ‘immediate humanitarian pauses’ for aid
Labour frontbenchers have been warned they will face ‘consequences’ if they defy orders and back a Gaza ceasefire in a Commons vote tonight.
Sir Keir Starmer is locked in last-gasp talks with members of his top team this afternoon amid fears that up to a dozen could quit in order to back an immediate, permanent end to bitter fighting between Israel and Hamas.
The SNP has been given permission to put its call for a ceasefire to a vote tonight, with the party’s Westminster leader Stephen Flynn saying Parliament must ‘show moral leadership’.
But Sir Keir has ordered his MPs to sit out the vote and instead back a softer Labour motion backing time-limited humanitarian windows.
It urges Israel to ‘protect hospitals and lift the siege conditions allowing food, water, electricity, medicine and fuel into Gaza’ but also asserts the country’s ‘right to defend its citizens from terrorism’ in the wake of Hamas‘s October 7 terror attack.
MPs are on a three-line whip, which means that any frontbencher who votes for a ceasefire should expect to be sacked, with a Labour spokesman saying: ‘This is a whipped vote and every MP knows what the consequence of that means.’
A growing number of Labour MPs are backing a cessation of hostilities in the besieged territory, where more than 11,000 people have been killed in the IDF onslaught.
Many are still prepared to put their roles at risk by siding with the SNP’s amendment calling on the UK to join the international community in pressing for an immediate ceasefire.
Last week levelling up spokesman Imran Hussain resigned so he could ‘strongly advocate for a ceasefire’ from the backbenches.
Other frontbenchers have so far chosen to stay in their posts and try to shift the leadership from within.
Shadow cabinet minister Pat McFadden said there was ‘no need’ for any Labour MP to support the SNP’s amendment.
He told LBC that his party’s position had been set out ‘comprehensively’ in its own King’s Speech amendment.
‘It deals with the three critical aspects of this, which are: how this began on October 7 with the greatest slaughter of Jews since the end of the Second World War; it deals with the current humanitarian situation unfolding in Gaza, calling for pauses in the fighting for more aid for more electricity, water, medicine to get into help the people there; and, critically, it also deals with the future.
‘And in setting it out in a comprehensive way, just as Keir Starmer did in his Chatham House speech a couple of weeks ago, we have given a position that Labour MPs can vote for.’
A party source said: ‘Mass resignations or sackings could well happen. It makes frontbenchers look silly if they’ve been calling for a ceasefire all this time then don’t support the motion.’
Another insider added shadow ministers either ‘want a free vote or for the party to turn round and back a ceasefire’.
The possibility of a Commons vote comes as Israeli forces entered Gaza’s Shifa hospital.
The Israeli army had surrounded the facility as part of its ground offensive against Hamas, claiming the militant group conceals military operations in the complex.
But with hundreds of patients and medical personnel inside, the move has risks of civilian casualties.
Hamas raids on October 7 killed 1,200 people in Israel and saw more than 200 taken hostage.
Retaliatory strikes, including a ground offensive into northern Gaza, by Tel Aviv’s forces have killed more than 11,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.
Foreign Office minister Andrew Mitchell is in Cairo on Wednesday to hold talks with Egyptian counterparts and other partners on how to get more humanitarian aid into Gaza.