More than 330 Labour councillors have written a letter to Keir Starmer, asking for his support in calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. This comes amid Starmer’s efforts to ease concerns within the party regarding the matter.
The council members, of whom the Guardian has learned that the majority are not Muslim, have expressed disapproval of the party’s decision not to support the policy, stating that it is causing harm to communities throughout the UK.
On Tuesday, Starmer explained his stance on the current crisis, following criticism from fellow MPs regarding his approach to the plight of Palestinians.
However, the council members have implored him to take stronger action and openly denounce any and all acts of violence towards innocent civilians.
The letter states that as leaders in our community, we are taking proactive measures to support our residents. This includes communicating with faith and community groups and taking steps to safeguard our communities against increasing incidents of hate crimes and racially motivated violence.
The worsening crisis in Gaza affects everyone, and the Labour party’s failure to denounce violence is causing harm within our communities.
In response to Starmer’s address, a Labour representative who previously voiced disapproval of Starmer’s position stated that the speech successfully maintained party unity for the immediate future.
They stated that they are committed to this stance. The most important aspect is to appear concerned about the lives of Palestinians instead of debating the technical distinctions between a ceasefire and a pause.
However, other prominent Labour members expressed that his statements had not effectively united the party in parliament. An anonymous source revealed that Labour MPs were feeling overwhelmed and were making great efforts to prevent their fellow members from resigning at both the national and local levels.
This letter addressed to Starmer follows a plea from over 250 Muslim Labour councillors for the leadership to urge for a ceasefire.
Starmer expressed his strongest condemnation yet of the Israeli bombardment, expressing worry over certain actions and urging Israel to allow fuel to enter Gaza.
At a presentation for the Chatham House thinktank in London, Starmer expressed that he does not agree with the current stance of calling for a ceasefire, despite acknowledging the calls.
Starmer emphasized the importance of collective responsibility, where all members of his frontbench team support a unified stance. However, he did not indicate that he planned to dismiss those who had voiced differing opinions.
He acknowledged that it is my responsibility to address collective responsibility.
He stated that a ceasefire would temporarily halt the conflict, giving Hamas the opportunity to resume attacks on Israel in the future.
He stated that if Hamas was given the opportunity, they would become more confident and start getting ready for future violence right away. He expressed that instead, he would prefer to see a brief break in fighting for humanitarian reasons.
The remarks were a firm refusal of appeals for a truce from various individuals, including the leader of Scottish Labour, Anas Sarwar, the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham.
Thirteen shadow ministers, such as Alex Cunningham, Afzal Khan, Rushanara Ali, Andy Slaughter, Jess Phillips, and Florence Eshalomi, have also voiced support for halting the conflict.
Starmer also declined to back the United Nations’ assessment, among others, that there may have been war crimes committed during the bombing of Gaza.
“Israel has to act in accordance with the law,” he said. But he added: “I think it’s unwise for politicians to stand on stages like this or to sit in television studios and pronounce day by day which acts may or may not be lawful under international law.”
Sacha Deshmukh, the chief executive of Amnesty International UK, criticized Keir Starmer’s comments, stating that his failure to call for an immediate ceasefire shows a lack of clear and principled leadership in addressing this long-standing crisis.
He expressed his disappointment that Starmer did not take the opportunity to affirm his commitment to upholding international law during his leadership.