Starmer’s Sudden Shift: Calls for Permanent Ceasefire in Israel-Gaza Conflict

Labour leader Keir Starmer’s impassioned plea for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza sets the stage for a critical Commons vote amidst internal party divisions and mounting pressure from the SNP. Here’s the full story.

Surprising Turnaround

In a surprising turnaround, the Labour Party leader, Keir Starmer, has made a speech to the Scottish Labour conference in Glasgow calling for an urgent ceasefire in the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict. 

This marks a significant shift in the position of the Labour leader, who had previously argued in favor of Israel’s right to defend itself. 

“Not just for now, not just for a pause, but permanently. A ceasefire that lasts. That is what must happen now. The fighting must stop now,” Starmer said in his speech. 

Cautioning Against Military Action

In the speech, not only did Starmer state the urgent need for a lasting ceasefire, but also warned against any military action by Israel against Rafah, a city in southern Gaza. 

Starmer’s address to the conference followed his attendance at the Munich security conference, where there were ongoing, heated discussions over the Israel-Gaza situation. 

In his speech, Starmer reflected on the issues raised during his conversations in Munich. 

Practical Peace

The Labour leader focused on what he saw as practical measures to achieve a peaceful resolution, including the release of hostages, ending violence against innocent Palestinians, increasing humanitarian relief, and securing a permanent ceasefire.

Starmer’s call for an immediate end to the fighting marked a departure from his earlier positions, favoring the more cautious approach of supporting a “sustainable ceasefire.”

This change of heart is not surprising, coming as it does shortly after the Scottish Labour conference passed a motion calling for an immediate ceasefire. 

Scottish Labour

This position was also supported by Scottish Labour’s leader, Anas Sarwar, who previously had been much more outspoken than Starmer regarding the need for a ceasefire. 

The Scottish National Party (SNP) has heaped further pressure on Starmer by tabling a motion in the House of Commons to call for an immediate end to the violence.

Starmer will be desperate to avoid a repeat of the significant rebellion that occurred last November over a similar SNP motion, during which 56 Labour MPs defied the party whip to support it, leading to the resignation of eight frontbenchers.

Downplaying the Vote

Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, David Lammy, sought to downplay the significance of the upcoming Commons vote. 

He emphasized that any real change in the region would come through diplomatic means involving all the key players in the region, such as Hamas and Benjamin Netanyahu.

The SNP’s leader in Westminster, Stephen Flynn, invited Starmer to discuss the motion, emphasizing the need for clarity in pressing for an immediate ceasefire.

Despite the deep animosity between Labour and the SNP, Sarwar expressed his openness to working with the SNP to pass the motion, considering it a viable option for a unified message from the UK parliament.

Rafah Offensive

In his speech, Starmer specifically addressed the long-awaited offensive on Rafah, expressing deep concern for the 1.5 million people residing there in cramped conditions with no other means of seeking shelter. 

Starmer also warned that any assault on Rafah would turn the city into a new battleground and stressed that the offensive should not occur. 

While addressing the enthusiastic Scottish delegates at the best-attended Scottish Labour conference in years, Starmer also took the opportunity to caution against complacency. 

He reminded those in attendance of Labour’s challenges in winning back former Labour voters who had switched their preference to the SNP. 

Starmer also responded to claims from SNP leader Humza Yousaf that Starmer doesn’t need Scotland to win the general election. Starmer was unequivocal in his rejection of this idea, stating, “No matter what the SNP say, the Tories can win the next election.”

Significant Shift

Starmer’s calls for an immediate and lasting ceasefire in Gaza significantly shifted his position on the issue. 

Whilst this about-face has been cheered by some in the Labour Party, others worry that it may be too little too late or that his apparent indecision on such a vital matter may reflect poorly on his leadership. 

The upcoming vote in the Commons will be a crucial moment for Starmer, where we will see how effective a leader he can be on such a momentous issue. 

Whether his recent change of heart is enough to lead to calls from the UK government for a ceasefire, convince wavering SNP voters to come back into the Labour fold, or lead his party to Downing Street remains to be seen.

The post Starmer’s Sudden Shift: Calls for Permanent Ceasefire in Israel-Gaza Conflict first appeared on Pulse365 Limited.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Martin Suker.

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