Keir Starmer attempted to present the Labour party as in agreement regarding their stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict, stating that demands for a cessation of hostilities and humanitarian breaks were originating from the same source.
The leader of the Labour party made an effort to refocus on the Conservatives by giving a speech to the North East Chamber of Commerce in County Durham on Friday. In his speech, he criticized the king’s speech as a “manifesto for another year of Tory failure” and a signal for the upcoming general election.
However, the attention quickly shifted to the pressure he faces from his own party. Several prominent Labour members are dissatisfied with Starmer’s remarks on the conflict in the Middle East this week, believing that they have not sufficiently united the parliamentary Labour party, considering the strong emotions among Labour’s base.
Some of the Labour party’s top members have criticized the leader for not showing enough compassion and understanding in his past remarks about the conflict. On Thursday, the leaders of two Labour councils in Lancashire, Burnley and Pendle, demanded his resignation due to his position on the matter.
Starmer stated that he was not surprised by individuals seeking any solution they believe could improve the terrible circumstances. He also clarified that this should not be interpreted as a major disagreement.
The leader of the Labour party expressed this as a human feeling. They shared their emotions upon witnessing the death of children, being a parent themselves and understanding the impact it has on one’s heart.
High-ranking members of the Labour party attempted to downplay the notion of long-lasting rifts forming within the organization. They argued that the disagreements surrounding the party’s position on Israel and Gaza are not exclusive to Labour, as other institutions, such as universities, are also facing similar pressures.
Starmer reiterated that he will not be removing any frontbench members who have strayed from the party’s stance on humanitarian corridors and advocated for a ceasefire.
It seems that the leader of the Labour party believes that the most effective way to assert his control over the party is by prioritizing finding practical solutions to improve the situation on the ground. This involves maintaining alignment with US President Joe Biden and leaders in the Middle East, allowing them to coordinate and speak with a unified voice.
While speaking to the audience in County Durham, Starmer emphasized multiple times that he was not fixated on the specific roles of individuals within the party.
When asked by reporters, Starmer acknowledged the strong emotions surrounding the situation, not only within the Labour party but also across all political parties and the country as a whole. He also recognized the ongoing suffering in Israel and Gaza.
“This is not solely about the political stance of party members. It’s about easing the suffering of those affected. Right now, it is crucial that humanitarian aid reaches Gaza quickly.”
Starmer has continuously refrained from defining the specific criteria for a demotion, creating a vague situation to prevent internal conflicts within Labour from taking center stage. Currently, the party’s top MPs are allowed to openly display “human emotion” regarding the conflict.
In total, 16 members of the Labour frontbench and one-third of the entire Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) have expressed support for a ceasefire or shared others’ calls for one on social media. Some of these individuals include Yasmin Qureshi, Jess Phillips, and Imran Hussain.
Savanta’s polling, based on a survey conducted from 27 October to 2 November with 618 councillors, indicates that only 37% of Labour representatives at the local level are content with the party’s stance on the conflict.