Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is under growing pressure from within his party over his response to the conflict between Israel and Hamas, with dozens of councillors having quit Labour in protest.
Many of his Shadow Cabinet have also broken ranks to back calls for a ceasefire in the region, which led Sir Keir to announce a compromise position of backing a ceasefire once Israelis taken hostage taken by Hamas are freed.
He attracted criticism shortly after Hamas first attacked Israel last month when he appeared to suggest Israel had a right to limit essential supplies, including water and electricity, to Gaza.
Here is the latest on the escalating row over the Gaza conflict within Labour:
Why are councillors resigning?
The leader of Burnley Council and 10 other councillors resigned from the Labour Party last week over leader Sir Keir Starmer’s refusal to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Afrasiab Anwar, the leader of Burnley Council, was among party members calling on Sir Keir to step down last week, and described his choice to quit Labour after 10 years in the party as a “really difficult decision”.
Following his resignation, Mr Anwar told i: “The handling of this from Keir Starmer has been poor right from the outset. Not being able to hold the Government to account or even urge the Government to say that we need to try and find a peaceful solution. It just hasn’t gone far enough.”
He added: “We have tried everything to try to engage within the party. But we just felt that anything we said has just been either ignored or we weren’t being listened to.”
Dozens of other councillors have also chosen to resign including Amna Abdullatif, the first Arab Muslim woman elected to Manchester City Council.
Labour councillors have also quit the party in Oxford, Gloucester, Hounslow, Cambridge, Nottingham, and Glasgow.
Last month, 150 councillors jointly signed a letter to Sir Keir and deputy leader Angela Rayner requesting that Labour back a ceasefire.
What has Keir Starmer said to Labour councillors?
Sir Keir wrote a letter to all Labour councillors on 18 October, in which he expressed sympathy for the Israelis and Palestinians affected by the conflict.
He wrote that “this is a terrifying and distressing time for everyone – Israeli, Palestinian, Muslim and Jew” and said he believed it was “important that people hear directly what our position is”.
“Labour has been clear; Israel has the right to defend herself; to keep its people safe and bring hostages home,” he wrote, adding this must be “conducted in accordance with international law”.
A video call was also held with councillors on 16 October with Sir Keir’s chief of staff Sue Gray and shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy to allow members of the party to discuss its stance on the conflict.
What has Keir Starmer said about a Gaza ceasefire?
Many councillors chose to resign after Sir Keir appeared to suggest in an interview with LBC on 11 October, just days after Hamas launched its surprise attack on Israel, that Israel had a right to limit essential supplies, including water and electricity, to Gaza.
Asked by presenter Nick Ferrari if a “siege” of Gaza was appropriate, Sir Keir responded: “I think that Israel does have that right. It is an ongoing situation.”
He added: “Obviously everything should be done within international law, but I don’t want to step away from the core principles that Israel has a right to defend herself and Hamas bears responsibility for the terrorist acts.”
On 31 October, amid growing pressure from within his party, he gave a speech calling for a ceasefire in Gaza to be implemented once hostages have been freed and Hamas’s power has been broken.
Speaking at Chatham House foreign affairs think-tank in London, he claimed that an immediate ceasefire would “freeze” the current situation, potentially allowing Hamas to regroup and carry out further terror attacks similar to that which took place on 7 October.
He said: “Over time, the facts on the ground will inevitably change in relation to both hostages being rescued and Hamas’s capability to carry out attacks like we saw on 7 October, and we must move to cessation of fighting as quickly as possible. Because the reality is that neither the long-term security of Israel nor long-term justice for Palestine can be delivered by bombs and bullets.”
Are Labour MPs calling for a ceasefire in Gaza?
Almost 50 Labour MPs and a dozen frontbenchers have backed calls for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict.
A trio of senior Labour figures have also broken ranks to back a ceasefire – London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Scottish party leader Anas Sarwar.
In a video posted on X, former known as Twitter, Mr Sarwar said: “We need to see the immediate release of hostages, immediate access to humanitarian supplies… and 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,” he added.
Frontbenchers who have backed calls for a ceasefire including shadow domestic safeguarding minister Jess Phillips, shadow local government minister Sarah Owen, shadow solicitor general Andy Slaughter, and opposition whip Kim Leadbeater.
But Mr Burnham has played down claims of division within the Labour Party over its position on the Israel-Hamas war, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he wasn’t being disloyal by backing a ceasefire.
“Of course, we abhor the terrorist attacks of 7 October, we recognise Israel’s right to take targeted action against Hamas. Our concern was with the widespread bombing causing such huge number of casualties — that was the point that we have made,” he said.
The Manchester Mayor had published a statement alongside his deputy Kate Green and other cross-party leaders in the city which he said was a “careful, considered statement that sought to reflect the views of our communities here”.
“Keir, in his speech earlier this week, I think made many similar points so I don’t think the difference between us is too great. And this issue cannot become all about the Labour Party.
What has Keir Starmer said to Labour MPs?
Last month, Sir Keir and his deputy Ms Rayner held a meeting with Labour Muslim MPs.
It came after it emerged 37 Labour MPs had signed a parliamentary motion expressing their “deep alarm” at the “Israeli military bombardment and total siege of Gaza”.
The motion, tabled by Richard Burgon who served in former party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, also attacks the “collective punishment of the Palestinian people” and demands an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.
Around a dozen MPs attended the meeting, which was described as “constructive” by Labour sources.