Keir Starmer is today desperately trying to dampen the flames of a major Labour rebellion over his backing for Israel in the conflict in Gaza after he ducked out of mentioning the Middle East at PMQs this afternoon. The Mail has more.
The opposition leader is meeting with his Muslim MPs and peers this afternoon as he tries to defuse anger from pro-Palestinian backbenchers about his strong stance on the right to respond to Hamas terror attacks.
It comes after he used all his six questions this lunchtime to target Rishi Sunak over domestic issues including last week’s by-election defeats, as splits on foreign affairs look to be deepening within his own party.
Sir Keir is also embroiled in a bitter row with a mosque in Wales after community leaders accused him of “gravely misrepresenting” their discussions during a visit at the weekend.
Long-standing tensions within Labour have flared since the atrocities in Israel, with a slew of councillors quitting and Left-wing MPs deeply unhappy.
A letter from 150 councillors this morning demanded he calls for a ceasefire, which the U.K. and U.S. have not done because it would prevent Israel acting against Hamas.
Rishi Sunak used PMQs to back “specific pauses” in the conflict between Israel and Hamas to allow British nationals to escape Gaza and let aid in but rejected calls for a wider stop to hostilities.
Despite Sir Keir avoiding the subject, Labour’s Shadow Women and Equalities frontbencher Yasmin Qureshi asked: “How many more innocent Palestinian people must die before this Prime Minister calls for a humanitarian ceasefire?”
A Labour spokesman denied she had diverted from the party’s position against a blanket ceasefire, saying it was framed as a question.
The party said it supported calls for “humanitarian pauses” by the PM and U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
Criticism of the party leader has focused on an LBC interview where Sir Keir seemed to suggest Israel has the “right” to cut off power and water on Gaza.
Sir Keir has since denied he ever endorsed Israel withholding humanitarian aid, insisting his remark related to a different question.
However, the clarification has done little to ease the row. Sir Keir’s spokesman today denied he had avoided raising the issue at PMQs for party management reasons, pointing to the fact that it dominated two previous sessions and there have also been other debates.
The Labour leader will try to placate furious members of the Parliamentary party in a meeting after PMQs.
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