On November 4, 2023, the Scottish National Party (SNP) proposed a motion for a vote on a ceasefire in Gaza in response to the escalating Israel-Hamas conflict. The motion was put forward during a parliamentary meeting in the House of Commons, with the SNP emphasizing the need to address what they referred to as war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza.
House of Commons Proceedings: The Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, scheduled a vote on the SNP motion following the debate on the King’s Speech. The final vote took place in the evening, defeating the SNP’s motion with a count of 294 against and 125 in favor. The aftermath of the vote stirred controversy, particularly within the Labour party.
SNP’s Stance: SNP members, including Alison Thewliss and Stephen Flynn, passionately advocated for a ceasefire, expressing concern about the humanitarian crisis and civilian casualties in Gaza. Thewliss emphasized the importance of striving for peace and preventing further cycles of violence in the region.
Labour Party’s Position: While Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of the Conservative Party maintained a firm stance against calling for a ceasefire, Labour party leader Keir Starmer also refused to back such a motion. Starmer did not support the SNP’s call for an immediate ceasefire despite internal pressure. Labour party members were instructed not to vote for the SNP motion, risking repercussions for disobeying party leadership.
Internal Strife within Labour: Over 70 Labour party representatives openly defied Starmer’s position and called for a ceasefire ahead of the vote. The defiance led to resignations, with several councillors and prominent figures leaving the party. Jess Phillips, the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, resigned from her position of Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence and Safeguarding, citing her constituents’ concerns and the impact of military actions on the hope for peace.
Afzal Khan’s Resignation: Afzal Khan, the Labour MP for Manchester Gorton, also resigned from his position of Shadow Minister for Legal Aid, stating that he would vote for the motion calling for a ceasefire. He highlighted the urgency of supporting a ceasefire with over 11,000 Gazans killed.
Keir Starmer’s Response: In response to the internal fallout, Starmer released a statement acknowledging the terrorist attack by Hamas on October 7 against Israel. He expressed regret for colleagues unable to support his position but emphasized his commitment to addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
Public Reaction and Protests: Protesters gathered outside London’s parliamentary buildings ahead of the vote, continuing their demonstrations following the motion’s defeat. Amnesty International U.K.’s Chief Executive, Sacha Deshmukh, labeled the vote as a historic missed opportunity, criticizing MPs who voted against a ceasefire for letting down both Palestinian and Israeli civilians. The organization urged all MPs to support a ceasefire on all sides to prevent further loss of civilian lives.
Conclusion: The U.K.’s Gaza ceasefire vote showcased divisions within political parties, particularly the Labour party, highlighting the challenges in forming a unified stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict. The vote’s aftermath has resulted in resignations, internal strife, and public protests, reflecting the complex nature of international relations and humanitarian concerns in the face of ongoing conflicts.