Labour still considering SNP motion on Gaza ceasefire, says Lammy

Labour has not ruled out backing an SNP-led vote on an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, in a sign the party leadership hopes an avenue can be found to avoid re-opening deep divides on the issue among MPs.

It comes after the Scottish Labour conference in Glasgow backed immediate calls for a ceasefire, with the party leader north of the border Anas Sarwar describing the SNP motion as “perfectly reasonable”.

Neither Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer nor shadow foreign secretary David Lammy confirmed how MPs would be asked to vote, with both suggesting that the party in Westminster would need to inspect the wording of the motion.

The move by the SNP has the potential to pile fresh pressure on the Labour leadership over its carefully worded stance on the conflict in Gaza, amid global concern about the growing death toll as the Israeli bombardment continues.

A similar vote in November saw eight shadow ministers break ranks to back an immediate ceasefire, with some 56 Labour members defying a three-line whip and backing an SNP amendment to the King’s Speech.

In an open letter to Labour MPs ahead of Wednesday’s vote, the SNP’s Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said: “For more than four months, the UK has followed the strategy of equivocation supported by Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer. The devastation shows it hasn’t worked. The time for equivocation is over.”

Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg
Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy sought to play down the idea that the party was divided (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Mr Lammy, who is in Germany for the Munich Security Conference, declined to say how Labour MPs might vote.

“I haven’t seen the motion, it’s not yet put down, we will scrutinise that motion as is our way in Parliament and we will take it from there,” he told the BBC.

“But let us be clear, yes, we will have a vote in Parliament this week but it’s not that vote that will bring about a ceasefire, it’s the diplomatic action.”

“I fully understand that Scottish colleagues want the fighting to stop now, we’ve been saying that for weeks, so we agree with them.

“We want the fighting to stop now. I’m not sure that what’s flying around on Twitter says anything about it being sustainable.

“You can have a ceasefire that lasts for a few days. We want the ceasefire to last and to be permanent and to move towards the diplomatic solution. It will only be a political solution that brings an end to this.”

“We all want to see an end to the fighting, it must stop.”

Scottish Labour conference 2024
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the SNP motion was ‘perfectly reasonable’ (Andrew Milligan/PA)

In a previous Westminster vote in November, Sir Keir favoured “humanitarian pauses” to allow aid to enter Gaza.

But the party’s position has hardened somewhat since then, with the Labour leader joining criticism of Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejection of a two-state solution.

The vote comes in the wake of the row over the Rochdale by-election, which saw Labour take the highly unusual step of withdrawing support for candidate Azhar Ali after he suggested Israel took Hamas’ October attack as a pretext to invade Gaza.

A second parliamentary candidate, Graham Jones, was also suspended after audio appeared to show the former Labour MP use the words “f****** Israel” at the same meeting attended by Mr Ali.

On Sunday, Mr Sarwar said Labour is in touch with the SNP’s whips about the wording of their Commons motion.

Mr Sarwar told the BBC’s Sunday Show: “I know our whips have already made contact with the SNP whips to say look, we ultimately both want the same thing.

“We both want the violence to stop right now and we both want the release of hostages, we both want immediate access to humanitarian aid. We both want that two-state solution.”

Owen Thompson
Owen Thompson said he had received no contact from Labour whips (PA)

Following the interview with Mr Sarwar, the BBC’s Martin Geissler read out a message he had received from SNP MP Mr Thompson.

It said: “He (Mr Sarwar) claims Labour whips are discussing the ceasefire vote with SNP whips.

“As the SNP chief whip at Westminster I can say this is entirely untrue as there has been no contact with me.”

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