Humza Yousaf says MPs who refused to back a ceasefire in Gaza 'on wrong side of history'

MPs voted 293 to 125 to reject SNP amendment on an immediate halt in hostilities Gaza, but Keir Starmer suffers major rebellion

UK Parliament votes against calling for Gaza ceasefire

UK Parliament votes against calling for Gaza ceasefire
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Scotland's First Minister Humza Yousaf said he is “beyond angry” that MPs refused to back a ceasefire in Gaza, in a vote which saw a rebellion against Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer's position.

The SNP leader warned MPs were “on the wrong side of history” after they failed to back his party's amendment to the King’s Speech calling for a halt in hostilities, which he said was a chance to “put humanity before politics”.

MPs voted 293 to 125 to reject the SNP’s King’s Speech amendment calling for “all parties to agree to an immediate ceasefire” in Gaza.

Mr Yousaf, who was recently reunited with his Palestinian in-laws after they returned to the UK from the war zone in Gaza, quoted the World Health Organisation saying that one child has been killed every 10 minutes in Gaza.

Writing on X, formerly Twitter, Mr Yousaf said the death toll of about 4,500 children killed in a month during the Israel-Gaza war was “senseless”, and urged the public to speak out against the bloodshed.

“TAt Westminster, MPs were presented with the chance to vote in favour of the SNP ceasefire,” Mr Yousaf said.

“This was a plea to put humanity before politics by endorsing a ceasefire.

“Too many parents have had to bury their children in Gaza. Too many children have become orphaned. Too many have suffered. And for far too long.

“A ceasefire would enable a humanitarian corridor and the crucial delivery of immediate aid to those in desperate need.

“I am beyond angry that Scottish Labour MPs and others refused to back the calls for an immediate ceasefire.

“They are on the wrong side of history, which is unforgivable.

Mr Starmer lost eight frontbenchers as dozens of Labour MPs backed a ceasefire.

High-profile shadow minister for domestic violence, Jess Phillips, joined several frontbench colleagues including Yasmin Qureshi, Afzal Khan and Paula Barker in quitting after deciding to support an SNP amendment to the King’s Speech backing a ceasefire.

Four other frontbenchers: Rachel Hopkins, Sarah Owen, Naz Shah and Andy Slaughter, have also left the front bench after breaking the party whip to back the amendment.

Parliamentary private secretaries Dan Carden and Mary Foy joined them in leaving their positions.

In total, 56 Labour MPs backed the position, rejecting their party leader’s stance and defying a three-line whip.

Labour MPs had been ordered to abstain on the SNP move and were told instead to back Mr Starmer's position calling for longer “humanitarian pauses” rather than a ceasefire.

Front-benchers who rebel to back a rival amendment would normally be sacked for breaking the party whip.

Mr Starmer said he regretted that party colleagues had not backed his position.

“Alongside leaders around the world, I have called throughout for adherence to international law, for humanitarian pauses to allow access for aid, food, water, utilities and medicine, and have expressed our concerns at the scale of civilian casualties,” he said.

“Much more needs to be done in this regard to ease the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding in Gaza.

“In addition to addressing the present, every leader has a duty not to go back to a failed strategy of containment and neglect, but to forge a better and more secure future for both Palestinians and Israelis.

“I regret that some colleagues felt unable to support the position tonight. But I wanted to be clear about where I stood, and where I will stand.

“Leadership is about doing the right thing. That is the least the public deserves. And the least that leadership demands.”

Ms Qureshi stepped down as shadow women and equalities minister, before the Commons vote.

“The scale of bloodshed in Gaza is unprecedented,” Ms Qureshi said on social media. “Tonight, I will vote for an immediate ceasefire.

“We must call for an end to the carnage to protect innocents lives and end human suffering.

“With regret, I have stepped down as shadow women and equalities minister.”

Front-bencher Naz Shah, shadow minister for crime reduction, also broke ranks with her party leader.

Ms Shah said October 7 was a terrorist attack by Hamas but when it comes to the humanitarian situation in Gaza, she must vote with her conscience

A “humanitarian catastrophe” is taking place in Gaza, she said as she backed calls for an “immediate ceasefire”.

“I will be supporting the amendment which seeks an immediate ceasefire,” Ms Shah told the Commons.

“Make no mistake, this is a humanitarian catastrophe, which is why I urge members to back an immediate ceasefire on all sides and push for the release of hostages.”

Shadow education minister Helen Hayes said her conscience told her she should back the ceasefire.

“In calling for a ceasefire no one is suggesting that the cessation should be unilateral or that it should be without conditions. Hamas must release the hostages,” Ms Hayes said.

“In war, ceasefires do not always hold and I think we must all be realistic about the intensity of this conflict.

“But a bilateral humanitarian cessation of the violence, a ceasefire, is surely the minimum we should be demanding in the face of such horrific suffering.

“But we must all of us be able to stand in front of our own constituents with integrity and at peace with our own conscience on the issues that matter most to them.

“My conscience tells me that I must call for a ceasefire today, for a halt to this dreadful destruction and conflict where far too many have already died on both sides, and more will continue to die if the violence does not cease.”

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Labour shadow business minister Afzal Khan also called for a ceasefire.

The MP for Manchester Gorton told the Commons: “If we had a ceasefire yesterday 144 Gazan children would still be alive today.

“Israel has already crossed every red line imaginable and broken international humanitarian laws.

“History has shown us that military action alone does not resolve conflicts and Israel’s use of force will not resolve this one.

“We need to call an immediate ceasefire now. My constituents have demanded this and I will not refuse them. Supporting a ceasefire is the very least we can do.”

Mr Hussain, a Labour MP who quit his front bench role last week so that he could “strongly advocate for a ceasefire”, confirmed he would vote for the ceasefire amendment.

“A foreign policy that is driven by values would not still be advocating the four-hour pauses that do nothing to alleviate the suffering of innocent men, women and children,” he told the Commons.

“Instead, a foreign policy of morality and values would be advocating front and centre a ceasefire that ends the bloodshed, allows desperately needed aid to reach those most in need and create space following the safe return of hostages for meaningful negotiations on a lasting peace.”

Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy joined more than 60 Labour parliamentarians in calling for a ceasefire. On Thursday, she said many felt it was “important to send the message that the government should be working with a range of organisations to see how a ceasefire which involves all parties … could be achieved”.

She told Radio 4's Today show: “There is no difference between people who want to see the bloodshed stopping. What I was sad about yesterday was that the government could not even stand with anybody saying they wanted a humanitarian pause, let alone a ceasefire.

“And I just think division over something as awful as this does not help send the message around the world that we stand with all the innocent civilians who are at risk of harm as a result of the situation.”

Updated: November 16, 2023, 9:47 AM