Sir Keir Starmer is making efforts to subject Labour’s stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict to a vote, aiming to preserve party unity.
The party has introduced a Commons amendment expressing apprehensions about the civilian death toll and advocating for extended pauses in the fighting to aid delivery.
However, it aligns with the Labour leader’s stance and stops short of explicitly urging an immediate ceasefire in the conflict, the BBC reported.
Numerous Labour MPs have challenged their leader by advocating for a ceasefire, and 19 frontbench members have publicly deviated from their party’s official position.
In recent developments, shadow minister Imran Hussain resigned from his position last week to advocate for an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Approximately 50 councillors have also left the party due to disagreements with the leadership’s stance on the war.
Starmer has maintained that a ceasefire might not be appropriate as it could freeze the conflict and empower Hamas.
Instead, both Labour and the Conservative government, along with the US and the European Union, are endorsing “humanitarian pauses” to help aid reach Gaza.
These pauses are typically short-term in comparison to a formal ceasefire and aim to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza without necessarily achieving long-term political resolutions.
Last week, the US announced that Israel would initiate daily four-hour military pauses in specific parts of northern Gaza.
On Tuesday (14), shadow foreign secretary David Lammy advocated for a “comprehensive” humanitarian pause, while foreign office minister Andrew Mitchell expressed the need for “longer pauses that cover wider areas.”
On Wednesday (15), the Labour Party faced mounting pressure as the Scottish National Party (SNP) aimed to secure a vote advocating a ceasefire, presenting an amendment to the King’s Speech, Rishi Sunak’s programme for government unveiled last week.
Concerns have arisen that some frontbenchers may resign to support the SNP motion. In response, Labour has submitted its own amendment.
The decision on whether either or both motions will be voted on rests with Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle.
The text of the amendment supports Israel’s right to self-defence after Hamas’s horrific October 7 attack in which 1,200 people were killed and more than 200 taken hostage.
It also says that there has been “too much suffering, including far too many deaths of innocent civilians and children” since Israel retaliated by attacking Gaza.
According to the Hamas-run health ministry more than 11,000 people have been killed in Gaza since then including more than 4,500 children.
The amendment calls on Israel to “protect hospitals and lift the siege conditions” on the territory, and urges longer humanitarian pauses to allow aid “on a scale that begins to meet the desperate needs of the people of Gaza”.
It states that this is a “necessary step to an enduring cessation of fighting as soon as possible and a credible, diplomatic, and political process to deliver the lasting peace of a two-state solution”.
Shadow cabinet minister Lisa Nandy did not specify how Labour MPs would be expected to vote on the SNP motion if it is selected, adding that this was “a matter for the chief whip”.
However, sources from the Labour Party said that frontbenchers will be instructed to abstain if the SNP motion is picked.
The SNP motion says it “unequivocally condemns the horrific killings by Hamas and the taking of hostages” and “reaffirms that there must be an end to the collective punishment of the Palestinian people”.
It calls for “the urgent release of all hostages and an end to the siege of Gaza to allow vital supplies of food, fuel, medicine and water to reach the civilian population”.
It also notes “the growing calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire from the United Nations and its aid agencies; and therefore, call on the Government to join with the international community in urgently pressing all parties to agree to an immediate ceasefire”.
Supporters of Starmer position express optimism that the move could prevent most resignations. However, they acknowledge that the issue of endorsing a ceasefire has become a central concern for some MPs.
Starmer faced criticism within his party for suggesting that, in response to Hamas’s October 7 attack, Israel had the right to cut off water and electricity in Gaza.
His spokesperson clarified that he meant to emphasise Israel’s general right to self-defence. But despite a speech acknowledging calls for a ceasefire, his stance has faced ongoing pressure, leading to more defiance from MPs and councillors.