United Kingdom
UK Labour Party’s delicate balancing act during the Israel-Hamas war

Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour Party, is facing a serious threat to his leadership and electoral prospects in the UK. The Hamas terrorist attacks against Israel on 7 October and Israel’s retaliatory operation in Gaza have caused divisions globally, including within the Labour Party. Starmer’s unequivocal support of Israel’s right to self-defense and refusal to call for a ceasefire have caused widespread discontent within the party.

Starmer’s assertions that a ceasefire would freeze the conflict and allow Hamas to execute further attacks on Israel have few takers in the party. At least 50 Labour MPs and 250 councillors have backed an immediate ceasefire, including prominent Labour members like Sadiq Khan and Andy Burham. Others, such as Shadow Minister Imran Hussain, have stepped down over the party’s stance.

The Scottish National Party’s motion for a ceasefire led to 10 frontbenchers quitting the Labour Party, escalating the situation. Despite the resolution being defeated by 125 votes to 293, it was strongly supported by members of the Labour Party, with 56 out of 198 voting in favor of the motion and against the Party and Starmer’s official stance.

Labour leader, Tony Starmer, has a controversial position on the Israel-Palestine conflict, which is seen as a compromise on Labour’s core principles. Starmer’s approach, which is a departure from the leftist Jeremy Corbyn, is seen as a threat to the party’s core principles of justice and human rights, including a free state for the Palestinians. The stakes are higher for Labour than the Tories, as its electoral support base consists of the Muslim population and the liberal left middle class. With protests demanding a ceasefire in London, there is evidence that support is already thinning, with 64% of Muslims voting for Labour.

Starmer’s position is also influenced by the irony that a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was brokered by Qatar to allow essentials to reach Gaza and the two-way release of hostages and prisoners. Experts, such as Richard Haass of the Council of Foreign Relations, consider Israel’s goal of eliminating Hamas an impossible feat, making it difficult for governments to continue supporting such goals. Opposition to a ceasefire was likely an untenable position in the first place, and governments adopting this line would likely face pressure to alter policy.

Despite the emotive nature of the Israel-Palestine issue, Starmer’s position could impact Labour’s electoral outcomes in 2025. As resignations pile up and the Middle East instability spills over into British politics, Starmer may need to contain the fallout effectively to avoid a similar fate to previous Labour governments’ decisions to participate in the Iraq war.

Israel-Hamas warUKUK Labour PartyUK Labour Party's delicate balancing act during the Israel-Hamas war