UK Labour leader to avoid internal party revolt over Gaza truce vote

By Thomson Reuters Feb 21, 2024 | 8:44 AM

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s opposition leader Keir Starmer is likely to avoid another major rebellion among his lawmakers on the Israel-Hamas war after his plan on how to reach a ceasefire in Gaza was selected to be voted on in parliament.

The Labour Party, tipped to win a national election expected later this year, has been engulfed by an internal battle over its policy towards the Middle East conflict since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas that led to Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

Lawmakers will vote on Wednesday on an opposition Scottish National Party (SNP) motion calling for an immediate ceasefire that had the potential to expose Labour’s internal divisions.

In the run-up to the vote, left-wing Labour and the governing Conservative Party put forward different versions of what conditions they said were necessary before there should be a pause in fighting.

The House of Commons speaker selected all those amendments to be voted on. This meant Labour members of parliament could vote on their party’s plan and would not have to defy their leadership by voting in support of the SNP’s amendment.

While the outcome of the vote will not be binding on the British government or be closely watched in Israel or by Hamas, it had the potential to cause problems for Starmer, who is keen to present his party as united, disciplined and ready for power.

A similar motion tabled by the SNP in November saw Starmer suffer the biggest revolt of his leadership when 56 Labour members of parliament voted to back it.

The Labour leadership was reluctant to back the SNP amendment that calls for an immediate ceasefire because it condemns the “collective punishment” of the Palestinian people.

The Labour leader initially gave full backing to Israel as it embarked on its military retaliation. But Labour members of parliament and party members have been increasing pressure on the leadership to back an immediate ceasefire.

Both Israel and Hamas have deflected rising international pressure to halt a war, now in its fifth month, that has demolished much of the Gaza Strip and caused a humanitarian catastrophe, rejecting each other’s terms for a ceasefire.

(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; editing by Mark Heinrich)