Bradford East MP Imran Hussain dramatically resigned as a shadow minister last night so he can ‘strongly advocate’ for a ceasefire in Gaza, saying he was ‘deeply troubled’ by the leader’s stance.
The move raised alarm among allies of Sir Keir that more senior figures could walk away, with dozens thought to be unhappy.
However, the party again insisted this morning that there will not be a change in position supporting ‘humanitarian pause’ rather than a ceasefire. A spokesman said the latter would ‘only freeze this conflict and leave hostages in Gaza and Hamas with the infrastructure and capability’ to repeat the October 7 terror attacks.
Keir Starmer is struggling to contain a fresh escalation in Labour’s Israel meltdown today after a frontbencher quit
Bradford East MP Imran Hussain dramatically resigned as a shadow minister last night so he can ‘strongly advocate’ for a ceasefire in Gaza
In a letter to Sir Keir, Mr Hussain said he was ‘deeply troubled’ by the Labour leader’s interview on LBC in which he appeared to suggest that the Israeli government had a right to withhold water and power from citizens in Gaza.
‘It is with a heavy heart that I am writing to tender my resignation as shadow minister for the New Deal for Working People after eight years on the Labour Party frontbench,’ Mr Hussain said.
He said he had been ‘proud’ to work alongside Sir Keir and his deputy, Angela Rayner, in developing a plan for employment rights, but could not ‘in all good conscience’ push for a cessation of hostilities while remaining part of the front bench.
Mr Hussain said: ‘It has become clear that my view on the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza differs substantially from the position you have adopted.’
The Labour leader has faced a deepening battle to maintain discipline in his top team on the Gaza conflict.
At least 16 shadow ministers have either called for a ceasefire or shared others’ calls on social media, including Yasmin Qureshi and Jess Phillips.
Sir Keir has insisted collective responsibility remains important, but made clear frontbenchers will not be sacked for breaking ranks to urge an end to fighting.
Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson has urged fellow Labour Party members to ‘always carefully choose their words’ when expressing views about the Israel-Hamas conflict.
It comes after Labour frontbencher Imran Hussain resigned over party leader Sir Keir Starmer’s refusal to call for a ceasefire in the Middle East.
Speaking on Times Radio, Ms Phillipson said: ‘The difficulty with calls for a ceasefire is that it risks freezing the conflict in time, and also allowing Hamas to regroup and perpetrate further atrocities which they said, given the chance, they would absolutely do time and again.’
Pressed on Mr Hussain’s views that Israel had breached international law and committed war crimes, Ms Phillipson said all Labour MPs ‘have to tread with a degree of caution’ and ‘Imran has reached his own decision’.
She added: ‘I would urge colleagues to always carefully choose their words where it comes to fast-moving international events, and where it isn’t always clear or apparent very quickly what is happening on the ground.’
A Labour Party spokesman said: ‘Labour fully understands calls for a ceasefire. Everybody wants to see an end to the shocking images we are seeing in Gaza. We need to see all hostages released and aid getting to those most in need.
‘But a ceasefire now will only freeze this conflict and would leave hostages in Gaza and Hamas with the infrastructure and capability to carry out the sort of attack we saw on October 7.
‘International law must be followed at all times and innocent civilians must be protected. Labour is calling for humanitarian pauses in the fighting.
‘This is the best and most realistic way to address the humanitarian emergency in Gaza and is a position shared by our major allies.’
Burnley’s council leader, Afrasiab Anwar, and 10 other councillors quit the party on Sunday, describing their memberships as ‘untenable’ given the leader’s refusal to go beyond his call for ‘humanitarian pauses’ amid the escalating conflict.
In a letter to Sir Keir, Mr Hussain said he was ‘deeply troubled’ by the Labour leader’s interview on LBC in which he appeared to suggest that the Israeli government had a right to withhold water and power from citizens in Gaza
Mr Anwar said: ‘We just can’t stand by watching and being part of a party that is not speaking out, or at the very least calling for a ceasefire.
‘Instead of talking of peace, all of our world leaders, including the leader of the Labour Party, are talking about humanitarian pauses. It is just nonsensical.’
The councillors said they had engaged with a host of senior Labour figures – including shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, shadow foreign secretary David Lammy and deputy leader Ms Rayner – to raise their concerns.
Mr Hussain said he unequivocally condemned Hamas’s October 7 attack but that this could not ‘become a right to violate international law on protecting civilians or to commit war crimes’.
‘As I write, more than 1,400 Israeli and over 10,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed in the last month,’ he wrote.
‘This shocking number of fatalities is set to grow as indiscriminate attacks and the siege of Gaza continues.’
Mr Hussain had served on Labour’s frontbench for almost eight years, serving under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership as shadow international development minister in 2016.