Local Labour MPs Rebel on Gaza Ceasefire Vote

Rupa Huq and Andy Slaughter defy Keir Starmer to back SNP motion

Rupa Huq speaking in the Commons during the debate on the amendment. Picture: X/Rupa Huq

November 16, 2023

Two local Labour MPs have defied their party’s leadership and backed a motion calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

They had been whipped to not vote for a SNP amendment in favour of an immediate cessation of hostilities in the conflict between Israel and Hamas which was voted on this Wednesday evening (15 November).

The wording called for an end to the "collective punishment of the Palestinian people" and demanded "all parties to agree to an immediate ceasefire".

Ealing Central & Acton MP Rupa Huq and Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter joined 54 of their party colleagues in rebelling on the issue.

Mr Slaughter, who will contest the Chiswick and Hammersmith constituency at the next election, has resigned his position as Shadow Solicitor General, deputy to the Shadow Attorney General. Sir Keir Starmer had said before the vote that any front bench spokespersons voting for the amendment would be removed from their positions.

In the debate in the Commons preceding the debate Dr Huq, who does not hold a shadow frontbench position, said, “The new Foreign Secretary called Gaza and open-air prison during peacetime, and while we all stood with Israel on October 7, what are the limits of self-defence? A population forcibly displaced by donkey because there’s no fuel, communications blackouts.

“And when will the UK join France, Spain, the UN and all the agencies in advocating for a cessation of hostilities, because we can’t go on like this 20 hours a day.”

The amendment was defeated by 294 to 125 votes. Brentford & Isleworth MP Ruth Cadbury abstained on this vote but supported a different amendment for a humanitarian pause.

She explained her position by saying, “Over the past weeks I have received hundreds of emails from constituents about the horror unfolding in Gaza, and across Israel the West Bank and East Jerusalem

“I have listened to people locally during school visits, community events and meetings with religious leaders including with leaders from Hounslow’s mosques. From the many conversations I’ve had I know that everyone shares my abhorrence at the violence that we have seen over the recent weeks.

“Having spent a lot of time reflecting on the situation since October 7, met many colleagues and those involved, including the Palestinian representative in the UK, I looked carefully at the tabled amendments to the King's Speech and to the debate on the amendments.

“On Wednesday 15 November I voted for Amendment R to the King’s Speech as it most closely reflected my views and my thinking, and how best I believe we should approach the horrific conflict that we have seen.”

This amendment condemned the 7 October attacks and called for the return of the hostages while insisting Israel follow international law in its response saying there had been, "far too many deaths of innocent civilians and children", and demanded an end to the expansion of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. This amendment was supported by the party’s leadership and received 160 votes, more than the one calling for a ceasefire.

Other shadow ministers who rebelled were Jess Phillips, Afzal Khan and Yasmin Qureshi bringing the number of opposition spokespersons to step down on the matter to 10. No senior member of the shadow cabinet rebelled on the issue.

In a statement after the vote, the Labour leader said, "I regret that some colleagues felt unable to support the position tonight. But I wanted to be clear about where I stood, and where I will stand".

He added that after the terrorist attack by Hamas on 7 October, "No government would allow the capability and intent to repeat such an attack to go unchallenged".

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