Sir Keir Starmer has been hit by three resignations from his top team, as he faced a frontbench rebellion over his refusal to back a ceasefire in Gaza.
Three shadow ministers – Yasmin Qureshi, Afzal Khan and Paula Barker – quit on Wednesday evening, pledging to vote for an SNP amendment to the King’s Speech backing a ceasefire.
It comes as comes as frontbenchers Naz Shah and Helen Hayes face being sacked after they broke ranks with their party leader and signalled plans to vote for the rival amendment.
MPs voted 293 to 125, majority 168, to reject the SNP’s King’s Speech amendment calling for “all parties to agree to an immediate ceasefire” in Gaza.
Our amendment calls on the UK government to:
“Join with the international community in urgently pressing all parties to agree to an immediate ceasefire”.
A ceasefire can save lives and promote progress for peace. MPs should vote yes and be on the right side of history. pic.twitter.com/8IkoDnXsLJ
— The SNP (@theSNP) November 14, 2023
Labour MPs had been ordered to abstain on the SNP move and were told instead to back Sir Keir’s position calling for longer “humanitarian pauses” rather than a ceasefire. Frontbenchers who rebel to back a rival amendment would normally face the sack for breaking the party whip.
In a statement following the vote, Sir Keir said he regretted that party colleagues had not backed his position.
“Alongside leaders around the world, I have called throughout for adherence to international law, for humanitarian pauses to allow access for aid, food, water, utilities and medicine, and have expressed our concerns at the scale of civilian casualties.
“Much more needs to be done in this regard to ease the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding in Gaza.
“And in addition to addressing the present, every leader has a duty not to go back to a failed strategy of containment and neglect, but to forge a better and more secure future for both Palestinians and Israelis.
“I regret that some colleagues felt unable to support the position tonight. But I wanted to be clear about where I stood, and where I will stand.
“Leadership is about doing the right thing. That is the least the public deserves. And the least that leadership demands.”
The multiple resignations come after Imran Hussain also quit the front bench earlier this month over Sir Keir’s stance on the Gaza war.