Labour defence spokesman says Starmer’s comments have caused hurt
Labour’s own defence spokesman has admitted Sir Keir Starmer’s refusal to back a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza has cause “hurt to many people”.
The comments, which will further fuel the party’s division over the war, came after Labour’s Scottish leader Anas Sarwar accused Sir Keir of lacking empathy on the issue.
In a leaked account of a meeting, the Daily Record reported Mr Sarwar said the Labour leader lacked “empathy” and “humanity” during the private outburst.
He said the party will have to do a “repair job” with Muslim voters “every day” until the General Election following the party’s stance.
Labour’s shadow defence secretary John Healey was asked about the Scottish leader’s comments, and confessed Sir Keir’s stance has caused hurt.
READ MORE: Starmer insists party is united despite calls for him to quit over Gaza
Mr Healey conceded: “I accept it’s caused hurt to many people, and Keir Starmer would do that as well”.
“He understands why people are calling for a ceasefire and want to see an end to the fighting.”
He said Labour believes it is not currently the right time to call for a ceasefire.
Labour is calling for a “humanitarian pause” in the fighting, in order to allow aide trucks into Gaza and permit people to leave the strip safely, however has argued a total ceasefire would undermine Israel’s right to defend itself.
Sir Keir’s stance has split much of the Labour Party, with dozens of councillor resignations, hundreds more writing to the leadership to demand a different policy, and concerns about MP resignations from his front bench.
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Mr Healey said the Israeli Defence Force has offered “some hope” after they said there should be a four hour break in the fighting to allow Gaza’s residents to move to safer areas.
Last night, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary David Lammy strengthened Labour’s stance on Israel in a sign the leadership is beginning to bow to pressure.
He warned that the “siege conditions” in place in Gaza are unacceptable.
Mr Lammy said the “number of dead Palestinian civilians and children is shocking” and demanded Israel takes further steps to prevent a “humanitarian catastrophe”.
He defended the party’s refusal to back a ceasefire, but warned “even wars have rules”.
He said: “The way Israel fights this war matters. They must uphold international law. The Palestinian people are not Hamas and the children of Gaza must be protected. It is unacceptable that the siege conditions on the strip have not been lifted.”
Around one in six of MPs on Sir Keir’s own frontbench have now broken with collective responsibility and called for a ceasefire, in addition to around one third of the wider body of Labour MPs.
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