Sir Keir Starmer says Labour government would have 'duty' to help resolve Gaza conflict

Political correspondent Elaine Willcox asks the Labour leader whether he thinks human rights matter in Gaza.

Sir Keir Starmer has said a Labour government would have a “duty” to play a “full part” in resolving the conflict in the Middle East.

Kicking off the second week of General Election campaigning, the Labour leader said his “number one priority is to ensure we get a ceasefire” in the Israel-Hamas war.

During his speech at the Fusilier Museum in Bury on Monday, 3 June, Sir Keir insisted human rights, international law and accountability “matters in Gaza."

He added: “You wouldn’t be human if you were not affected by the images that we’ve seen.

"The best thing we can do for both sides, for everybody concerned is to press for that ceasefire immediately, straight away.

"That’s been our position for weeks and weeks and weeks and months."

The party leader said a ceasefire in Gaza is Labour's priority. Credit: PA Images

Sir Keir continued to say: "The first and most fundamental thing is getting that ceasefire, ensuring we can get hostages out – I shudder to think what state they will be in – to make sure we can get humanitarian aid in, desperately needed and has been for a long time, an absolute catastrophe.

“And then that duty we will have if we come into power to play our full part in resolving the conflict in the Middle East for the long-term and that can only happen if we work with our allies.

"If we play our part on the world stage and clear the path for a two-state solution – I’m not going to pretend that’s going to be easy, I’m not going to pretend this isn’t a very difficult starting point but that has to be, will be, the only way forward.”

Sir Keir, who met with veterans during his visit to Greater Manchester, went on to say legal advice on UK arms sales to Israel would be reviewed under Labour after mounting pressure to revoke export licences.

Sir Keir Starmer and John Healey met with some of the military parliamentary candidates Labour has selected for the General Election. Credit: PA Images

The UK Government has resisted pressure to halt the licences, amid concerns that Israel could be in breach of international humanitarian law as the conflict in Gaza continues.

Deputy foreign secretary Andrew Mitchell has previously said UK companies provide an estimated 0.02% of Israel’s overall arms imports.

Sir Keir said: “It is for the Government obviously to review the licences. They do it one by one. They have got legal advice.

"We’ve been pressing them to disclose that legal advice. And I still press them to disclose that legal advice.

“Obviously, if we’re privileged to come in to power, we’ll be able to see that advice or commission our own. But, I will just add this, that the Rafah offensive should not go ahead.

"And that I think our Government should follow the US lead on this in relation to arms sales and review the licences to see whether any of them would be or are being used in the Rafah offensive.”

A nuclear submarine at BAE Systems, Barrow-in-Furness. Credit: PA Images

Sir Keir Starmer pitched Labour as the “party of national security” during his Bury visit.

He reaffirmed his commitment to a “nuclear deterrent triple lock” which includes a building four new nuclear submarines in Barrow-in-Furness; maintaining Britain’s continuous at-sea deterrent; and the delivery of all future upgrades needed for the submarines.

The Labour leader also outlined his ambition to increase defence spending to 2.5% of GDP, which is target Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made clear he wants to meet by 2030.

However, Labour has so far declined to outline its timeline.

"National security and economic security must go hand-in-hand", Sir Keir said.

“We have the smallest army since the time of Napoleon, at a time when other countries are firmly on a war footing. And so even as we work tirelessly for peace, we have to be fit to fight.

“So let me be unequivocal: this Labour Party is totally committed to the security of our nation, to our armed forces and, importantly, to our nuclear deterrent.”

Sir Keir has been attempting to shift perceptions his party's defence stance following the reign of Jeremy Corbyn, a long-standing critic of Nato and Trident.

Have you heard our new podcast Talking Politics? Every week Tom, Robert and Anushka dig into the biggest issues dominating the political agenda…