More than 330 Labour councillors have endorsed a letter calling on Keir Starmer to support a truce in Gaza, despite his efforts to ease concerns within the party regarding the matter.
The council members, of which the Guardian reports that two-thirds are not Muslim, have expressed disapproval of the party’s decision to not support the policy. They argue that this decision is negatively impacting communities all over the UK.
On Tuesday, Starmer clarified his stance on the crisis following backlash from fellow MPs regarding his views on the plight of Palestinians.
However, the council members have encouraged him to take additional steps and “clearly denounce” any and all acts of violence targeting civilians.
The letter states that as leaders in the community, we are taking initiative to support our residents by engaging with faith and community organizations. Our main goal is to safeguard our communities from the increase in hate crimes and racially driven violence.
The worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza affects everyone, and the Labour party’s neglect to demand a cessation of violence is causing distress within our communities.
Responding to Starmer’s address, a Labour representative who had previously expressed disapproval of Starmer’s position stated that the speech had effectively maintained party unity in the immediate future.
They stated that they are firm on this stance, emphasizing the importance of appearing to prioritize the well-being of Palestinians instead of getting caught up in debating the technicalities between a ceasefire and a pause.
However, some high-ranking members of the Labour party stated that his comments had not effectively united the parliamentary group. According to one source, Labour MPs were experiencing high levels of stress as they attempted to prevent their fellow party members at both national and local levels from stepping down.
This public message directed to Starmer follows a plea from over 250 Muslim councillors within the Labour party, urging the leadership to advocate for a halt to hostilities.
Starmer gave his most direct criticism yet of the Israeli bombardment, expressing “concern” over some of its actions and urging Israel to allow fuel to cross into Gaza.
At a talk for the Chatham House thinktank in London, Starmer expressed his belief that although there are calls for a ceasefire, it is not the right approach at this time.
Starmer emphasized the importance of collective responsibility, which requires frontbench team members to take a unified stance. However, he did not suggest that he would be dismissing those who had voiced opposing opinions.
He stated that it is his responsibility to address collective accountability.
According to him, a suspension of fighting would temporarily halt the conflict, potentially giving Hamas the opportunity to resume attacking Israel in the future.
“He stated that Hamas would feel empowered and begin making plans for future acts of violence, but he preferred to see a temporary break in fighting for humanitarian reasons.”
The remarks explicitly opposed the plea for a ceasefire made by various individuals, including Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, London mayor Sadiq Khan, and Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham.
Thirteen members of the shadow cabinet, such as Alex Cunningham, Afzal Khan, Rushanara Ali, Andy Slaughter, Jess Phillips, and Florence Eshalomi, have joined the movement to stop the ongoing conflict.
Starmer declined to back the United Nations’ assessment, among others, stating that war crimes may have been carried out during the bombing of Gaza.
The speaker stated that Israel must adhere to the law. However, he also expressed his belief that it is not wise for politicians to publicly declare the legality of actions under international law while on stage or in TV studios.
Sacha Deshmukh, the chief executive of Amnesty International UK, criticized his comments, stating that Keir Starmer’s failure to call for an immediate ceasefire demonstrates a lack of clear and principled leadership in addressing this long-standing crisis.
He expressed disappointment that Starmer did not take the opportunity to state that, under his leadership, the UK would consistently and diligently uphold international law.