Labour will not sack shadow cabinet members rebelling over the party’s position on the Israel-Hamas conflict, Peter Kyle has suggested.
The shadow science secretary said the Labour leadership would likely “continue engaging” with its own frontbenchers who do not agree with Sir Keir Starmer’s stance on the conflict.
Sir Keir has called for a humanitarian pause in the fighting to allow for aid to be delivered to Palestinian civilians in Gaza, a call echoed by the UK’s allies including the United States.
But he finds himself at odds with senior Labour figures, including shadow equalities minister Yasmin Qureshi, who called during Prime Minister’s Questions for Rishi Sunak to back a ceasefire.
Meanwhile, Imran Hussain, a shadow minister working in Angela Rayner’s team, is among 39 Labour MPs who have signed a parliamentary early day motion calling for “an immediate de-escalation and cessation of hostilities”.
A host of frontbenchers, including shadow Home Office minister Jess Phillips, also broke ranks on Saturday to voice their support for a ceasefire.
Speaking to the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme, Mr Kyle suggested there was little to distinguish a humanitarian pause from a ceasefire.
“People are calling for a ceasefire. We are calling for a pause. We can dance on the head of a pin about what the nature of a ceasefire is,” he said.
Other Labour heavyweights who have backed a ceasefire include Manchester metro mayor Andy Burnham, London mayor Sadiq Khan, and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar.
2 million people in Gaza have been plunged into darkness.
First it was food, water, power and medicine. Now it’s a communications and internet blackout.
It’s impossible to imagine the horror that families in Gaza are facing right now and we need a ceasefire NOW.
— Imran Hussain MP (@Imran_HussainMP) October 27, 2023
Local councillors across England have also resigned from Labour to sit as independents amid the rift with the leadership’s position.
On Sunday, 35 councillors in the borough of Brent, north-west London, signed a statement pressing for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
Asked if those speaking against Sir Keir Starmer should be sacked, Mr Kyle told the BBC: “Well look, what we are going to do, I suspect, is continue engaging with them.”
Asked about the debate within Labour, he said: “I think the fact that we have a vigorous debate within our party, as we are doing as a country, and as we are doing actually as a globe right now, reflects a strength, because we have a leader that has channelled that and turned it into a policy that is in step with all of our international partners.”
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Kyle had earlier suggested Labour was not thinking about whether it will lose or win the support of different groups of voters with its stance on the Middle East conflict.
35 Brent Labour Cllrs have signed this statement calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza
We join the growing calls for this urgent measure, including Brent MPs Dawn Butler, Barry Gardiner and Mayor Sadiq Khan
We can’t stay silent in the face of this humanitarian catastrophe pic.twitter.com/rv4D1TV8Rf
— Jake Rubin (@JakeRubin__) October 29, 2023
He was asked on Sky’s Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips programme whether Labour was attempting to win back Jewish voters after the party’s antisemitism crisis, while at the same time taking Muslim voters for granted.
Mr Kyle responded: “We are not thinking ‘how do we win votes?’ or what votes we will lose at a time when there is war and conflict unfolding before us, and there are human tragedies of a scale we have not seen for a very long time.
“There are two truths here that are unfolding. The first is that everybody has the legitimate right in a democratic society, as ours is, to advocate for two sovereign solutions within the area, the territory we are talking about.
“There is also a right and a wrong. What Hamas did was wrong and we stand on the side of Israel, within international law, to defend itself.
“These two things can happen if we get it right.”