According to sources, Keir Starmer has acknowledged to Muslim Labour MPs that his trip to a mosque in south Wales could have been managed more effectively. He is under increasing pressure from all factions of the party to urge for a halt in fighting in Gaza.
Yasmin Qureshi, the shadow minister for women and equalities, made a public statement on Wednesday in which she went against the stance of the Labour party and asked Rishi Sunak to request a ceasefire during the prime minister’s questions. She expressed concern that the citizens of Gaza were being unfairly punished as a group for offenses they were not responsible for.
Several members of the Labour party were concerned that Qureshi could face consequences for her remarks. However, the party’s leadership has shown recognition of the growing divisions within the party by stating, “If I understood the question correctly…she was inquiring about the conditions under which the prime minister would support a ceasefire.”
On Wednesday afternoon, the Labour leader and his deputy, Angela Rayner, held a meeting with over 12 Muslim politicians. They expressed concern that his stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict was causing discomfort among many party members.
According to the Guardian, those present reportedly discussed how the party’s letdown was not simply a matter between the Jewish and Muslim communities.
Insiders characterized the gathering as positive and intense, with Starmer and Rayner reported to be fully attentive.
One individual who was present stated that he attempted to express understanding of the frustration. Starmer acknowledged the significant amount of effort needed to regain the trust of Muslim voters, and the individual believed that the leadership would adjust their stance to align with other global leaders depending on the severity of the conflict.
Following the meeting, Starmer released a statement expressing Labour’s support for humanitarian pauses in light of global worry for the safety of Palestinian civilians under attack by Israeli bombing.
However, a member of Parliament from the Labour party who was present at the meeting stated that the party’s leadership is in disagreement with the general public they are trying to gain support from. This statement was supported by a YouGov survey which revealed that 76% of the public are in favor of a ceasefire.
The South Wales Islamic Centre accused Starmer of misrepresenting his meeting with Muslim leaders on Sunday. The Labour leader met with approximately 30 community leaders, who were disappointed and angry about the leadership’s response to the crisis. The meeting was described as tense.
Despite reports from individuals with inside knowledge claiming that the meeting was successful, the leader of the Labour party sparked outrage when he posted photos of the conversation on X (previously known as Twitter), stating that he had “clearly expressed that it is not and has never been my belief that Israel had the authority to restrict access to water, food, fuel, or medication. It is essential to abide by international law.”
The center released a statement regarding community members confronting Keir over his remarks about the Israeli government’s decision to restrict essential resources in Gaza, which could be considered war crimes. They also criticized him for not calling for an immediate ceasefire.
Over 40 members of the Labour party, along with 250 local government officials from cities such as Birmingham, Blackburn, Glasgow, Barking, and Dagenham, have called on Starmer to support an immediate end to the fighting in Gaza. According to reports, last week, at least 20 councillors had planned to step down in protest of the issue.
On Wednesday, a well-known member of the frontbench revealed to the Guardian that they had contemplated resigning due to the resentment expressed by the Muslim community towards Labour, which they believed was not unexpected.
“The big point is you have to fight from the inside. The feeling is strong on the lack of Palestinian empathy. There has always been broad support for Palestinians on our benches, the anger has not come out of the blue. Even during the Iraq war, the levels of anger on our benches were not as bad as this,” they told the Guardian.
A Member of Parliament expressed worry that the damage has already been inflicted on relations with the Muslim community and that attempting to change course at this point would only be a form of damage control.