Starmer has said 'a ceasefire always freezes any conflict in the state where it currently lives'
The Labour leader Keir Starmer has reaffirmed his opposition to a ceasefire in Gaza in a major speech today. Starmer made the speech to set out the Labour Party’s position on the ongoing situation in the Middle East amidst deep divisions in his party.
In his speech, Starmer said: “While I understand calls for a ceasefire at this stage, I do not believe that it is the correct position now for two reasons.
“One, because a ceasefire always freezes any conflict in the state where it currently lives.
“And as we speak, that would leave Hamas with the infrastructure and the capability to carry out the sort of attack we saw on 7 October. Attacks that are still ongoing. Hostages, who should be released, still held.
“Hamas would be emboldened and start preparing for future violence immediately.
“And it is this context, which explains my second reason. Our current call for a pause in the fighting for clear and specific humanitarian purposes, and which must start immediately, is right in practice, as well as principle.
“In fact, it is, at this moment, the only credible approach that has any chance of achieving what we all want to see in Gaza. The urgent alleviation of Palestinian suffering, aid distributed quickly, space to get hostages out.”
Dozens of councillors have resigned their membership of the Labour Party in protest over Starmer’s stance on Gaza and senior Labour figures have broken ranks and called for a ceasefire. Among those who have called for a ceasefire are the mayor of London Sadiq Khan, the Scottish Labour leader Anas Sawar, and more than a dozen Labour frontbenchers.
Starmer’s speech has received a mixed response.
A spokesperson for Labour’s left wing faction Momentum said: “For all the fine words, Keir Starmer hasn’t shifted one inch: his speech today still backs Israel’s war on Gaza and opposes the ceasefire demanded by everyone from the UN to Save the Children.
“Thus Starmer backs a pause in hostilities – then a resumption of Israeli bombing which has already killed more than 3,000 children. To call this ‘humanitarian’ is an insult to the Palestinian people.”
Deputy leader of the Green Party Zack Polanski said: “Keir Starmer siding with the Conservatives by refusing to call for a ceasefire. He says that he’s not saying this to start “a new round of arguments or hand wringing.” If there’s any justice, they won’t get away with this. The UK population calling: we need a ceasefire now.”
By contrast, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary David Lammy praised the speech. He tweeted: “A powerful speech by @Keir_Starmer – we need pauses immediately to alleviate suffering in Gaza, while being clear on the need to tackle Hamas’s threat to Israel. Long term we need new resolve for a lasting peace, a two state solution, a secure Israel and a recognised Palestine.”
Labour MP Margaret Hodge also supported Starmer’s position. She said: “Pressing for something that just might work, as opposed to something that we know will not, is the tough call any leader should be making right now. Keir is correct in his calls for a realistic, lasting route to peace today, and I stand by his remarks.”
Chris Jarvis is head of strategy and development at Left Foot Forward