In a bold move, a number of Labour frontbenchers announced their resignation in order to support an SNP motion calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. Among those who stepped down were Jess Phillips, Afzal Khan, Yasmin Qureshi, Paula Barker, and Naz Shah. These shadow junior ministers chose to defy party orders to abstain from the vote, making a clear statement about their stance on the ongoing conflict.
This wave of resignations highlights the deep division within the Labour Party when it comes to their approach to the Middle East conflict. While party leader Sir Keir Starmer has advocated for humanitarian pauses in the Israel-Hamas war, some MPs and members of the shadow frontbench have called for a complete ceasefire. This difference in opinion has created tension and disagreement within the party, with some members feeling that the leadership’s position does not go far enough.
The recent resignations, including those of high-profile MPs like Jess Phillips, represent a significant challenge to Sir Keir Starmer’s authority. Sky News’s political correspondent Tamara Cohen has described this as potentially the “biggest challenge” faced by the Labour leader so far. The resignations were anticipated after the SNP introduced an amendment to the King’s Speech in support of a ceasefire. Labour MPs were instructed to abstain from the motion, and frontbenchers who defied the party orders were at risk of being sacked.
Despite the growing dissent within his party, Sir Keir Starmer has maintained his support for the UK Government’s approach of advocating for humanitarian pauses in the fighting. He believes that a total cessation of hostilities would “embolden” Hamas. While the Labour leader has allowed some frontbenchers to express their support for a ceasefire, rebellion in favor of a rival amendment would typically lead to expulsion from the party. This situation poses a significant challenge for Sir Keir in balancing party discipline with accommodating the diverse views within the Labour Party.
Among the frontbench resignations, Jess Phillips stands out as the most high-profile MP to step down. In her resignation letter, the Birmingham Yardley MP expressed her deep emotions over the situation in Israel and Palestine. She explained that she voted according to her constituents, her conscience, and her understanding of the unfolding crisis. Her decision, like that of her colleagues, demonstrates the difficult choices faced by politicians when personal beliefs clash with party lines.
The recent resignations of Labour frontbenchers to support an SNP motion calling for a ceasefire in Gaza highlight the growing tension within the party. While Sir Keir Starmer has backed humanitarian pauses in the conflict, some MPs and shadow ministers demand a complete cessation of hostilities. This difference in opinion has led to a challenging situation for the Labour leader, as he attempts to maintain party discipline while accommodating diverse views within the party. The resignations of prominent figures such as Jess Phillips emphasize the emotional weight and seriousness of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, making it clear that this issue is far from resolved within the Labour Party.