Luton MPs on 'resignation watch' over Labour Party's stance on Middle East crisis
Luton’s two Labour MPs are understood to be among four shadow frontbenchers reported to be on resignation watch over party leader Sir Keir Starmer’s failure to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
Shadow faith minister and Luton North MP Sarah Owen along with shadow cabinet office minister and Luton South MP Rachel Hopkins are thought to be considering stepping down as a result.
This stand off has arisen because of a row over about Sir Keir’s remarks in an interview with the broadcaster LBC on Israel and Gaza.
The Labour leader appeared to suggest Israel was justified in cutting off vital supplies to the region, before later clarifying the comments and saying he meant the nation had the right to self-defence instead.
In a speech to the House of Commons this week, he said: “For too long, we have allowed welcome progress in improving relations between Israel and her neighbours to sit without any progress on a future for Palestine and its people. That must change.
“We stand with Israel and her right to defend herself against the terrorists of Hamas. We stand for international law, the protection of innocent lives, humanitarian support for Palestinians. We do so because we stand for a political path to a two state solution, and a better future.”
Tensions have boiled over in the Middle East after a Hamas attack from the Gaza Strip left more than 1,400 dead and around 220 in captivity.
Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says more than 5,800 people have been killed in retaliatory air strikes by Israel, including 2,300 children.
Sir Keir and deputy party leader Angela Rayner spoke with about 12 Muslim MPs and peers yesterday (Wednesday) to calm tensions. But party sources still say it’s “unacceptable” Labour hasn’t backed a ceasefire and the meeting “made things worse”.
It was also labelled “constructive”, with an acknowledgement: “There’s a real concern if we lost a shadow minister that all the others come under real pressure (to resign).”
In a social media post on Tuesday, Ms Hopkins warned: “Gaza is facing a humanitarian emergency and civilians are terrified for their lives.
“The agreement enabling humanitarian aid to enter Gaza is welcome, but it’s not enough. The UK Government must get more food, water, medicine and fuel to Gaza to help Palestinian civilians.”
A week before, (October 17) she said on X: “There’s no justification for bombing hospitals or civilians. Innocent Palestinians must be protected.”
In her own social media post on Tuesday, Ms Owen attached a video of herself asking a question in the House of Commons, saying: “Today I asked ministers about the United Nation’s grave warnings on the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and what the UK government is doing to support independent investigations and the International Criminal Court.”
Five days earlier, (October 19) she attached another video to a post with her asking the Prime Minister a question in the House of Commons.
She wrote: “I called on him to challenge the breaches of international law in Gaza, impossible evacuation orders, and to act now to bring humanitarian aid in. The brutality must end.”