Jess Phillips and nine others quit Labour frontbench over ceasefire vote

People at a vigil for civilians in Israel and Palestine, in Westminster. Photo: PA
People at a vigil for civilians in Israel and Palestine, in Westminster. Photo: PA

Jess Phillips has left the Labour frontbench – along with nine others – over a rebellion against Sir Keir Starmer on a vote calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The 10 Labour parliamentarians – including eight shadow minister and two parliamentary private secretaries (PPS) – defied Starmer in backing calls for a ceasefire in the crunch Israel-Gaza Commons vote.

Phillips, shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, wrote in her resignation letter: “On this occasion I must vote with my constituents, my head, and my heart which has felt as if it were breaking over the last four weeks.”

Shadow minister for devolution, Paula Barker; shadow minister for exports, Afzal Khan; and shadow minister for women and equalities, Yasmin Qureshi, all resigned in advance of breaking ranks by supporting a Scottish National Party (SNP) amendment to the King’s Speech backing a ceasefire.

They were joined by Mary Foy, PPS for deputy leader Angela Rayner, and fellow PPS Dan Carden, as well as shadow minister for local government, faith and communities, Sarah Owen; shadow solicitor general, Andy Slaughter; shadow minister for veterans, Rachel Hopkins; and shadow minister for crime reduction, Naz Shah.

Qureshi published a letter to Starmer saying: “Anything short of a ceasefire will lead to the loss of more lives.”

Parliamentary machinations had seen the Labour leadership table a rival amendment calling for longer “humanitarian pauses” rather than a full ceasefire in a bid to limit the internal tensions on the issue.

Labour MPs were ordered to abstain on the SNP amendment and back Labour’s instead – both measures were a three-line whip, with frontbenchers who rebel typically facing the sack.

The Labour motion said MPs “believe [humanitarian pauses] must be longer to deliver assistance on a scale that begins to meet the desperate needs of the people of Gaza”.

While the SNP’s version asked “government to join with the international community in urgently declaring all parties to agree to an immediate ceasefire”.

A Labour Party spokesman earlier said: “This is a whipped vote and every MP knows what the consequence of that means.”

The row, with Labour’s leadership supporting the government in calls for humanitarian pauses and increased aid to Palestinians trapped in the bombarded territory, has risked a damaging split in the party which is currently ahead in the polls over the Conservatives.

Several shadow ministers have defied so-called collective responsibility by calling for a ceasefire, and dozens of Labour councillors have quit the party after it refused to demand one.

Starmer has so far allowed some deviation from the party’s position, but a Labour spokesman told reporters that “space” did not extend to a vote in the Commons.

After the vote Starmer commented: “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. Leadership is about doing the right thing. That is the least the public deserves. And the least that leadership demands.”