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Keir Starmer’s bid to quell a rebellion from his own party over a Gaza ceasefire hits new problems with Government amendment that could force MPs to back the SNP


Labour’s divisions over the Israel-Gaza conflict could deepen further today as a Government amendment may force MPs to back the SNP if they want to support an immediate ceasefire.

Sir Keir Starmer‘s party had appeared to quell a potential backbench rebellion by laying down an amendment calling for an ‘immediate humanitarian ceasefire’ ahead of a vote on a similar SNP motion.

While the wording of the amendment is slightly different from the SNP’s original proposal – it does not accuse Israel of ‘the collective punishment of the Palestinian people’ – the move represents a significant shift in Labour’s position.

But the Government last night tabled their own amendment, which only goes as far as to call for an ‘immediate humanitarian pause’ followed by a ‘permanent sustainable ceasefire’.

Sir Keir Starmer's party had appeared to quell a potential backbench rebellion by laying down an amendment calling for an 'immediate humanitarian ceasefire' ahead of a vote on a similar SNP motion

Sir Keir Starmer’s party had appeared to quell a potential backbench rebellion by laying down an amendment calling for an ‘immediate humanitarian ceasefire’ ahead of a vote on a similar SNP motion

While the wording of the amendment is slightly different from the SNP's original proposal ¿ it does not accuse Israel of 'the collective punishment of the Palestinian people' ¿ the move represents a significant shift in Labour's position. Pictured: David Lammy

While the wording of the amendment is slightly different from the SNP’s original proposal – it does not accuse Israel of ‘the collective punishment of the Palestinian people’ – the move represents a significant shift in Labour’s position. Pictured: David Lammy

Commons rules indicate that, if called, the Labour amendment would be voted on first, followed by the SNP’s motion, and then finally the Government’s amendment.

There is no limit to how many amendments can be selected by the Speaker, but constitutional experts last night suggested he may not select Labour’s amendment if the Government table a similar one.

In November, 56 Labour MPs defied Sir Keir to vote for the SNP’s previous call for a ceasefire, including ten frontbenchers who were forced to stand down.

Foreign affairs spokesman David Lammy said Labour had shifted its position because the situation in Gaza had ‘evolved’. 

A party spokesman said: ‘Our amendment calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, in line with our allies. 

‘We need the hostages released and returned. We need the fighting to stop now. We need a massive humanitarian aid programme for Gaza.

‘ And any military action in Rafah cannot go ahead.’

Last night the SNP accused Labour of only doing the right thing after months of internal pressure.

The party’s Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said: ‘I welcome this long-overdue U-turn from Sir Keir Starmer who now appears to support the SNP’s call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

But the Government last night tabled their own amendment, which only goes as far as to call for an 'immediate humanitarian pause' followed by a 'permanent sustainable ceasefire'. Pictured: Gaza City

But the Government last night tabled their own amendment, which only goes as far as to call for an ‘immediate humanitarian pause’ followed by a ‘permanent sustainable ceasefire’. Pictured: Gaza City

Last night the SNP accused Labour of only doing the right thing after months of internal pressure. Pictured: A photo taken from southern Israel along the border with the Gaza strip

Last night the SNP accused Labour of only doing the right thing after months of internal pressure. Pictured: A photo taken from southern Israel along the border with the Gaza strip

‘However, the plain truth is Sir Keir was forced into this position through public pressure and, in particular, by the SNP.

‘It’s telling that it took the SNP to insert a backbone into the Labour Party and act as Westminster’s conscience on this conflict.

‘Questions will naturally arise as to why it’s taken Sir Keir so long to change his mind, what his long months of prevarication achieved, and whether he will reinstate the MPs he sacked in November for supporting the same position he finally holds too.

‘Since Westminster rejected a ceasefire in November, more than 29,000 Palestinian children, women and men have been killed. It’s vital MPs don’t make the same mistake again.’

There was also a mixed response from Labour MPs to the attempt to overwrite the SNP motion, according to party insiders.

‘Some MPs are still annoyed about the wording of the amendment, even though it calls for an immediate ceasefire,’ one source said. ‘But they’ll vote for all of it – it’s the best we’re going to get.’

An adviser said: ‘Whilst a call for an immediate ceasefire is welcome, the motion is too little, too late. 

‘Catastrophic humanitarian consequences have already taken place. Keir should’ve heeded the warnings by human rights organisations such as UNICEF and Action Aid.’

Former Labour minister Diane Abbott, who sits as an independent, said the amendment was ‘drafted to give cover to Labour MPs but still stay in lockstep with the US.’

Mish Rahman, who sits on the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party, said the motion was equivalent to ‘playing politics with people’s lives’.

Former Labour minister Diane Abbott (pictured), who sits as an independent, said the amendment was 'drafted to give cover to Labour MPs but still stay in lockstep with the US'

Former Labour minister Diane Abbott (pictured), who sits as an independent, said the amendment was ‘drafted to give cover to Labour MPs but still stay in lockstep with the US’

He added: ‘The SNP motion is significantly stronger than Labour’s mealy-mouthed watered-down version which ignores Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinians. Starmer is trying to have his cake and eat it too.’

But senior Labour MP Clive Betts, who voted with the SNP in November, said he hoped the party would unite behind the amendment. 

‘It’s really important that we want to work for a two-state solution, which Netanyahu has rejected,’ he said. ‘That’s a really firm, strong statement, which I think the party will unite behind absolutely. I think many, many people will see that as a really strong commitment from Labour.’

The Liberal Democrats confirmed they will be voting for the SNP motion but lambasted the party’s ‘game playing’ and lack of reference to a two-state solution. They will also table an amendment.



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