A wave of Labour frontbenchers including Jess Phillips have resigned in order to back an SNP motion calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Afzal Khan, Yasmin Qureshi, Paula Barker and Naz Shah are among the eight shadow junior ministers that quit in order to defy party orders to abstain from the vote.
Rachel Hopkins, Sarah Owen and Andy Slaughter have also left their frontbench roles after breaking the party whip to back the amendment.
The MPs say Sir Keir Starmer’s calls for humanitarian pauses in the Israel-Hamas war don’t go far enough.
Two parliamentary private secretaries, Dan Carden and Mary Foy, have also left the frontbench, while 56 Labour MPs rebelled in total to back the SNP amendment.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “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.”
The Labour Party has been divided over its approach to the Middle East conflict, with numerous MPs and some members of the shadow frontbench calling for a ceasefire – something Sir Keir Starmer does not currently support.
The Labour leader has backed the UK Government’s position of pushing for humanitarian pauses in the fighting to allow aid to reach Palestinians trapped in the bombarded territory but stopping short of calling for a total cessation of hostilities – saying that would “embolden” Hamas.
The resignations tonight mean that nine shadow ministers have quit over Labour’s position, after Imran Hussain stepped down last week.
Sky News’s political correspondent Tamara Cohen described the resignations as possibly the “biggest challenge to Starmer’s authority” yet.
The resignations were expected after the SNP tabled an amendment to the King’s Speech backing a ceasefire.
Labour MPs were told to abstain on the motion, with members of the frontbench expected to resign or face the sack if they defy the party orders.
By tradition, those occupying frontbench positions are bound by a collective responsibility that they support the party’s position but, so far, Sir Keir has allowed some to deviate by expressing support for a ceasefire in Gaza.
However Labour frontbenchers who rebel to back a rival amendment would normally face the sack for breaking the party whip.
Ms Phillips, the most high profile MP to step down, said it was with a “heavy heart” that she quit.
In a resignation letter, the Birmingham Yardley MP wrote: “This week has been one of the toughest weeks in politics since I entered Parliament.
“I have tried to do everything that I could to make it so that this was not the outcome, but it is with a heavy heart that I will be leaving my post in the Shadow Home Office team.
“On this occasion I must vote with my constituents, my head, and my heart which has felt as if it were breaking over the last four weeks with the horror of the situation in Israel and Palestine.
“I can see no route where the current military action does anything but put at risk the hope of peace and security for anyone in the region now and in the future.”
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