Labour's Gaza ceasefire motion in lockstep with SNP - what happens next?

Credit: PA

Labour’s amendment to the SNP’s motion that calls for a ceasefire in Gaza is almost identical to the SNP’s original - except in one material aspect, namely that Labour does not accuse Israel of “the collective punishment of the Palestinian people”.

But in condemning any Israeli ground invasion of Rafah, and in pressing for a general immediate ceasefire, the SNP and Labour are now more-or-less in lockstep.

This carries a number of implications:

1) Since the Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron has also voiced deep concern about a Rafah invasion, there is a question about whether the government can simply vote against both the SNP motion and the Labour amendment, and do nothing else.

That could send a signal which is neither in keeping with Cameron’s and Sunak’s policy of trying to protect the lives of Palestinian civilians, or its support for the creation of a Palestinian state.

The government could therefore table its own amendment.

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2) If the government tables an amendment, under conventions for opposition day debates, its amendment would go to a vote and Labour’s would not.

3) In those circumstances, Labour and Starmer would then face a dilemma. Would Labour vote for the SNP’s unamended motion? Presumably it would since its position on Gaza is now so close to the SNP’s.

But Starmer and his colleagues will be wary of confirming in this way what is a plain truth (in any case), that the SNP has been making the running on calling for a ceasefire and Labour has been in its slipstream.

4) The corollary is that the SNP would surely vote for Labour’s amendment.

5) Although the noise and heat around this is largely about MPs’ anxieties about how they they are perceived by UK voters, it is not wholly irrelevant in a global context.

This is because the UK has deep economic, business and political interests in the wider Middle East.

No UK government likes to be seen as an opposition to Washington in respect of its Israel stance, and Israel’s history was inextricably intertwined with the denouement of the British empire.

Update - Rebellion risk for Starmer as government tables amendment to SNP motion?

The government has, by tabling an amendment to the SNP’s motion, created a serious problem for Starmer.

It means Labour’s motion is highly unlikely to be put to a vote.

That in turn means very significant numbers of Labour MPs will want to vote for the SNP motion.

But, I am told Starmer is implacably opposed to that motion, because it states that Israel is engaged in the “collective punishment of the Palestinian people”.

Tonight Starmer faces the risk of a very serious rebellion against his authority.

I understand Keir Starmer will order his MPs to vote against the SNP’s motion calling for a Gaza ceasefire for the reason I explain below (he hates the SNP’s charge that Israel is engaging in the collective punishment of Palestinians).

He knows many of his MPs will rebel against this three-line whip.

The stakes will be highest for members of his frontbench team, because they would be sacked if they vote in opposition to his instructions

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