Labour rebellion as senior figures defy Keir Starmer to call for ceasefire

Divisions have deepened within the Labour party over the Israel-Gaza conflict as more than 50 MPs back calls for a ceasefire - ITV News Political Correspondent Harry Horton has more

A Labour rebellion is growing over the Israel-Hamas war as an increasing number of shadow ministers voice their support for a ceasefire.

ITV News understands more than a quarter of the Party's MPs now support a ceasefire, which is in stark contrast with the position of the party leader Sir Keir Starmer.

On Friday a number of senior Labour figures broke ranks with Sir Keir, including Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who said a ceasefire would help prevent a "further devastating loss of life".

But Sir Keir has maintained that he supports humanitarian pauses, saying they would allow aid to reach those who need it while not preventing Israel from wiping out Hamas.

On Saturday, a host of frontbench Labour MPs broke ranks with the leadership to voice their support for a ceasefire, either with express endorsements or by sharing a call from the Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East (LFPME). Some of the MPs speaking out represent constituencies with prominent Muslim communities. It comes as Israel continued to pummel Gaza into Saturday in what was said to have been one of the heaviest nights of bombing during three weeks of war. The Israeli military announced that it was expanding its ground offensive in the vicinity of the Hamas-ruled territory after cutting off communications for its 2.3 million population. In Britain, thousands of protesters took to streets across the country, including London, Manchester and Glasgow, in support of the Palestinians. Bradford West MP Naz Shah, the shadow minister for crime reduction, tweeted: “What we are seeing is not defence, it is disproportionate attacks on a civilian population.

"I continue to call for a ceasefire to stop the killings of innocent civilians. We cannot be silent."

Paula Barker, Liverpool Wavertree MP and shadow minister for devolution, backed LFPME’s post on X, formerly known as Twitter, calling for an “immediate ceasefire by all parties”, along with the “unconditional release of all hostages brutally taken by Hamas” and “unfettered humanitarian access” to Gaza. Ms Barker shared the post, saying: “I fully support these calls.”

The Labour leader spent the week trying to see off a potential rebellion over his comments on the Gaza crisis after several councillors quit over a remark suggesting he supported Israel's move to cut off Gaza's supplies. He clarified the comments and denied that is what he meant.

But Mayor Khan and Mr Sarwar's call for a ceasefire added considerable pressure on Sir Keir to change his position.

Mr Khan said: "Thousands of innocent civilians, men, women and children have already been killed, and it's becoming impossible for aid to reach the people who desperately need it.

"Substantial military escalation is now likely which will only deepen the humanitarian disaster."

"I join the international community in calling for a ceasefire. It will stop the killing and would allow vital aid supplies to reach those who need it in Gaza but it will also allowed the international community more time to prevent a protracted conflict in the region and further devastating loss of life," he added.

Mr Sarwar said: “We are all so desperate for peace and are desperate to see the end of violence.

“And that is why we need to see the immediate release of hostages, immediate access to humanitarian supplies, food, medicine, electricity, water, into Gaza…

“The immediate cessation of violence, with an end of rocket fire into and out of Gaza. And let me be clear, that means a ceasefire right now.”

Rishi Sunak is also refusing to call for a ceasefire - but why?

Rishi Sunak and members of his Cabinet are also refusing to call for a ceasefire.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said the government needs to “ensure” there is a break in fighting in order to get aid into Gaza and allow British citizens to leave the bombarded 25-mile Strip.

UK Border Force teams are set up in Egypt to help if the Rafah border crossing is opened up for people to leave.

Israel has only in recent days agreed to allow aid into the country through the crossing, having besieged the Hamas-ruled area, preventing essentials such as water, food and fuel from reaching more than two million Palestinians.

Asked why ministers would not call for a cessation of violence, Ms Keegan told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that the government would not want to “cross that line of telling Israel it has anything but the right to defend itself”.

“Hamas have created this situation and Hamas are now embedding themselves in the Palestinian population,” she said.

More than 80 MPs and have urged the government to call for a cessation of violence.

But the prime minister’s official spokesman told reporters a ceasefire would “only benefit Hamas”.

The Foreign Office is in contact with around 200 UK nationals in Gaza, the prime minister said.

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