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Labour still considering SNP motion on Gaza ceasefire, says Lammy

18 Feb 2024 4 minute read
Palestinians look for survivors after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip. Photo Anas-Mohammed

Labour has not ruled out backing an SNP-led vote on an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, in a sign the party leadership hopes an avenue can be found to avoid re-opening deep divides on the issue among MPs.

It comes after the Scottish Labour conference in Glasgow backed immediate calls for a ceasefire, with the party leader north of the border Anas Sarwar describing the SNP motion as “perfectly reasonable”.

Neither Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer nor shadow foreign secretary David Lammy confirmed how MPs would be asked to vote, with both suggesting that the party in Westminster would need to inspect the wording of the motion.

‘Sustainable’

In recent weeks Sir Keir has backed calls for a “sustainable ceasefire”.

The move by the SNP has the potential to pile fresh pressure on the Labour leadership over its carefully worded stance on the conflict in Gaza, amid global concern about the growing death toll as the Israeli bombardment continues.

A similar vote in November saw eight shadow ministers break ranks to back an immediate ceasefire, with some 56 Labour members defying a three-line whip and backing an SNP amendment to the King’s Speech.

In an open letter to Labour MPs ahead of Wednesday’s vote, the SNP’s Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said: “For more than four months, the UK has followed the strategy of equivocation supported by Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer. The devastation shows it hasn’t worked. The time for equivocation is over.”

He said he hoped the two leaders would find the “courage” to back a ceasefire.

Mr Lammy, who is in Germany for the Munich Security Conference, declined to say how Labour MPs might vote.

Scrutinise 

“I haven’t seen the motion, it’s not yet put down, we will scrutinise that motion as is our way in Parliament and we will take it from there,” he told the BBC.

“But let us be clear, yes, we will have a vote in Parliament this week but it’s not that vote that will bring about a ceasefire, it’s the diplomatic action.”

He also sought to play down the idea that the party was divided on the issue.

“I fully understand that Scottish colleagues want the fighting to stop now, we’ve been saying that for weeks, so we agree with them.

“We want the fighting to stop now. I’m not sure that what’s flying around on Twitter says anything about it being sustainable.

“You can have a ceasefire that lasts for a few days. We want the ceasefire to last and to be permanent and to move towards the diplomatic solution. It will only be a political solution that brings an end to this.”

“We all want to see an end to the fighting, it must stop.”

Mr Sarwar himself is under pressure to whip his two Scottish Labour MPs – Ian Murray and Michael Shanks – to vote for an immediate ceasefire when the SNP motion is tabled.

In a previous Westminster vote in November, Sir Keir favoured “humanitarian pauses” to allow aid to enter Gaza.

Criticism

But the party’s position has hardened somewhat since then, with the Labour leader joining criticism of Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejection of a two-state solution.

The vote comes in the wake of the row over the Rochdale by-election, which saw Labour take the highly unusual step of withdrawing support for candidate Azhar Ali after he suggested Israel took Hamas’ October attack as a pretext to invade Gaza.

A second parliamentary candidate, Graham Jones, was also suspended after audio appeared to show the former Labour MP use the words “f****** Israel” at the same meeting attended by Mr Ali.

On Sunday, Mr Sarwar said Labour is in touch with the SNP’s whips about the wording of their Commons motion.

Mr Sarwar told the BBC’s Sunday Show: “I know our whips have already made contact with the SNP whips to say look, we ultimately both want the same thing.

“We both want the violence to stop right now and we both want the release of hostages, we both want immediate access to humanitarian aid. We both want that two-state solution.”

However, the SNP’s chief whip at Westminster Owen Thompson disputed that this was the case.

Following the interview with Mr Sarwar, the BBC’s Martin Geissler read out a message he had received from SNP MP Mr Thompson.

It said: “He (Mr Sarwar) claims Labour whips are discussing the ceasefire vote with SNP whips.

“As the SNP chief whip at Westminster I can say this is entirely untrue as there has been no contact with me.”


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Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
1 month ago

What is there to ‘consider’? A humanitarian catastrophe has unfolded in Gaza these past few months and the labour leadership at Westminster (and the labour leadership in Wales too) has stood by and watched. What a dismal contrast with the leadership given on this issue by the SNP and Plaid Cymru.

Last edited 1 month ago by Leigh Richards
Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
1 month ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

Agreed. Perhaps we should start a ‘Conspiracy Theory’ that Starmer’s stance is wholly oriented around the ‘Special Relationship’ with the US in which the UK does whatever the US wants, so upsetting Mr Biden must be avoided at all costs. I know that is just daft, but at times it does look like an explanation.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Cuthbert

Any special relationship between America and Britain is a one-way door, as we all know. In opposition Starmer has criticised Trump on numerous occasions, but wait until he becomes Prime Minister and Trump President. Then it’s flip me like a waffle, I’m on all fours, come scratch my belly Donald.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago

Complicit Labour are not considering anything. They are just navel-gazing as the Palestinian civilian death toll in Gaza surpasses a horrifying 30,000. Both SNP & Paid Cymru are parties with a conscience, where “socialist” Labour originally founded in 1900 to fight for workers rights, public ownership and principle of protecting the most vulnerable in society, now in 2024 , some 124 years later, turn a blind eye to ethnic cleansing and Zionist genocide truly sickening to behold. From the moral high ground to the depths of hell. Oh how the mighty have fallen. #YesCymru 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 #PlaidCymru 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 #SNP 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 #FreePalestine… Read more »

David
David
1 month ago

Starmer does not like the people of Palestine as they are semitic, therefore he is antisemitic.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago
Reply to  David

Yes he is. Correct. As you say, the Palestinians are a Semitic people.

Semitic. Definition:

“Semitic people or Semites is an obsolete term for an ethnic, cultural or racial group associated with people of the Middle East, including Arabs, Jews, Akkadians, and Phoenicians.”

And if left-wing Jewish Labour members are ostracized, removed, and called antisemitic by Keir Starmer and the Labour machine, so are those who support Israeli genocide antisemitic too.

Last edited 1 month ago by Y Cymro

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