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LABOUR’S Gaza crisis has deepened after Imran Hussain became the party’s first front-bencher to resign over its backing for Israeli aggression, as Commons pressure mounted on the government to back a ceasefire.
Mr Hussain, who was shadow spokesman for a new deal for working people, told Labour leader Keir Starmer that he could no longer sit on the front bench in “good conscience.”
The Bradford East MP added: “Over recent weeks, it has become clear that my view on the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza differs substantially from the position you have adopted.
“A ceasefire is essential to ending the bloodshed, to ensuring that enough aid can pass into Gaza and reach those most in need, and to help ensure the safe return of the Israeli hostages.”
His letter also condemned previous comments by Mr Starmer in a radio interview that Israel had the right to cut off water, food and power to the Gaza strip.
Sir Keir’s authority on the issue has suffered since, despite belated efforts to walk back his comments, with resignations taking place across the party.
Around 70 Labour MPs, including 18 frontbenchers, have broken ranks to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, without being sanctioned by party whips.
But that basic demand has not been echoed by shadow international development secretary Lisa Nandy in the Commons.
Responding to a government statement on aid today, she insisted that “humanitarian pauses are the only viable prospect,” rather than a ceasefire, while also calling for “siege conditions” in Gaza to be lifted.
However, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn spoke for much of the country by asking “is it not time that the British government joined sensible voices around the world in demanding a ceasefire?”
Labour MP Jon Trickett urged the government to get behind UN calls for a ceasefire.
And Labour MP Naz Shah asked Foreign Office minister Andrew Mitchell “when will the UK make an effort to end the bloodshed” of children in Gaza, but received no substantive answer.
Cross-party interventions by MPs pushed for a ceasefire, calling on the government to “stand up to Netanyahu” in the words of one.
It is rumoured that Sir Keir is trying to reassert discipline, telling frontbenchers that they will be sacked if they publicly back peace. If true, that could provoke further resignations.
Even the Labour boss’s supporters admit he has mishandled the issue. “It is ridiculous how he’s managed to make this into a Labour Party drama,” one unnamed source told the BBC.
Around 50 local councillors have quit the party, denying it control of Oxford and Burnley authorities, and more than 330 local representatives have signed an open letter demanding a ceasefire.
While the ferment is particularly intense among Labour-supporting Muslims, more than two-thirds of the councillors signing the letter are not Muslim.
A group of backbench MPs, led by Labour’s Zarah Sultana, Apsana Begum and Richard Burgon, have tabled an amendment to the Kings’ Speech urging the government to “urgently press all parties to agree to an immediate ceasefire” allowing the release of Hamas-held hostages and aid to the people of Gaza.
The amendment notes that a ceasefire is backed by 76 per cent of the public, as well as the First Minister in Scotland and the Labour mayors of Manchester and London.
But Mr Mitchell said the amendment would be supported by neither front bench after Ms Sultana told the Commons that the government was giving Israel “the green light” for slaughter in Gaza.
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