Police hold back pro-Palestinian protesters as Starmer leaves speech
Moment police wrestle back pro-Palestinian protesters shouting ‘Keir Starmer you can’t hide!’ as Labour leader is mobbed as he leaves Chatham House speech in which he defied rebel MPs demanding a Gaza ceasefire
Sir Keir Starmer today faced a gauntlet of pro-Palestinian protesters as he was bundled into a waiting vehicle after giving a speech on the Gaza crisis.
Police were forced to wrestle back demonstrators as they attempted to mob the Labour leader when he exited the Chatham House thinktank in central London.
Some of them were heard to chant ‘Keir Starmer, you can’t hide!’ and ‘ceasefire now’ as the politician made his departure.
Officers pushed protesters aside, but some ran at Sir Keir’s car and drummed on the windows. They also chased after the black 4×4 vehicle up the road after police had cleared a path for its exit.
It came after the Labour leader had defied the growing calls in his party for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
Sir Keir, who is facing one of the biggest crises of his leadership over the conflict in Gaza, pushed back at intense pressure on him to change his stance.
Sir Keir Starmer faced a gauntlet of pro-Palestinian protesters as he was bundled into a waiting vehicle after giving a speech on the Gaza crisis
Police were forced to wrestle back demonstrators as they attempted to mob the Labour leader as he exited the Chatham House thinktank in central London
Some demonstrators were heard to chant ‘Keir Starmer, you can’t hide!’ and ‘ceasefire now’ as the politician made his departure
What did Keir Starmer say in his speech?
Sir Keir Starmer delivered a speech this morning as he faces intense pressure from Labour MPs to change his stance on Israel.
Here are the key points from his address:
Sir Keir continued to defy calls from large parts of his party for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
He said: ‘While I understand calls for a ceasefire at this stage, I do not believe that it is the correct position…
‘… a ceasefire always freezes any conflict in the state where it currently lies.
‘And, as we speak, that would leave Hamas with the infrastructure and the capabilities to carry out the sort of attack we saw on October 7.’
The Labour leader insisted there was ‘unity’ in his party over the Middle East crisis.
He said: ‘Nobody in the Labour Party is making any other case than that we have got to alleviate the suffering, we have got to speak out for Israel’s right to self-defence and we’ve got to alleviate the suffering.
‘So there is complete unity on that.’
Sir Keir went further than he has before in criticising Israel’s response to the Hamas terror attacks.
He said: ‘The right to self-defence is fundamental, but it is not a blank cheque.
‘Every step must be taken to protect civilians from bombardment.
‘Palestinians should not be forced to leave their homes en masse.’
Punishing rebel MPs
The Labour leader insisted he took collective responsibility ‘seriously’.
But Sir Keir refused to say whether he would punish his rebel frontbenchers.
He said: ‘It is my responsibility to ensure collective responsibility.
‘I accept that we do need collective responsiblity and I take that duty extremely seriously.’
In his speech, the Labour leader said he understood the demands for a ceasefire among Labour MPs, councillors and supporters.
But he insisted this was not the ‘correct position’ for his party to take as he warned an immediate end to fighting would leave Hamas with the ‘infrastructure and capabilities’ to repeat attacks on Israel.
Sir Keir said the terror group would be ’emboldened’ by a ceasefire and would ‘start preparing for future violence immediately’.
Despite the huge divisions between Sir Keir and large parts of his party, he claimed there was ‘unity’ in Labour over the ‘key issues’ of seeking a two-state solution, the need to alleviate suffering in Gaza, but also Israel’s right to self defence.
He also insisted he took collective responsibility – the principle that members of his frontbench team adopt a unified position – seriously, but he gave no indication he was about to sack those who had spoken out.
Yet, despite his continued backing for Israel’s right to self-defence in the wake of the Hamas terror attacks on 7 October, the Labour leader went further than he has before in his criticism of Israel’s response.
He warned the right to self-defence is ‘fundamental, but it is not a blank cheque’ as he said the supply of water, medicines, electricity and fuel to citizens in Gaza ‘cannot be blocked by Israel’.
Sir Keir added an end to fighting must come ‘as quickly as possible’ because peace in the Middle East cannot be delivered by ‘bombs and bullets’.
Sir Keir made his speech this morning amid growing calls from senior party figures – including the Labour mayors of London and Greater Manchester, Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham, and an increasing number of his frontbenchers – for a permanent ceasefire.
Shadow justice minister Alex Cummingham joined those demanding a change in Sir Keir’s stance as he issued a public call for an ‘immediate ceasefire’ less than an hour before the Labour leader delivered his speech.
Protesters had gathered outside the central London venue where the Labour leader gave his address and chanted: ‘Keir Starmer shame on you, Palestinians are humans too.’
They added: ‘Ceasefire now, ceasefire now.’
In his address at the thinktank, Sir Keir said the Hamas attacks earlier this month had seen Israel suffer ‘terrorism on a scale and brutality that few countries have ever experienced’.
He described the 7 October attacks as ‘the biggest slaughter of Jews – and that is why they were killed, do not doubt that – since the Holocaust’.
‘Men, women, children, babies murdered, mutilated and tortured by the terrorists of Hamas,’ the Labour leader added.
‘Over 200 hostages, including British citizens, taken back into Gaza.’
But he also said there was a ‘humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza which again, plays out on a previously unimaginable scale’.
‘Thousands of innocent Palestinians dead, displaced, desperate for food and water, reduced to drinking contaminated filth,’ Sir Keir continued.
‘Hiding out in hospitals for shelter whilst in those same buildings, babies lie in incubators that could turn off at any moment.’
Sir Keir Starmer defied growing calls from Labour MPs for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas
Protesters had also gathered outside the central London venue ahead of the Labour leader’s speech. They chanted: ‘Keir Starmer shame on you, Palestinians are humans too’
Sir Keir said his reluctance to call for a ceasefire was because it ‘always freezes any conflict in the state where it currently lies’.
‘That would leave Hamas with the infrastructure and the capability to carry out the sort of attack we saw on 7 October,’ he said.
‘Attacks that are still ongoing. Hostages who should be released – still held. Hamas would be emboldened and start preparing for future violence immediately.’
The Labour leader reiterated his support – shared by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Britain’s allies such as the US – for humanitarian ‘pauses’ in the fighting.
‘In fact it is – at this moment– the only credible approach that has any chance of achieving what we all want to see in Gaza – the urgent alleviation of Palestinian suffering,’ Sir Keir said.
‘Aid distributed quickly. Space to get hostages out.
‘That is why it is also the position shared by our major allies, in the US and the EU and I urge all parties to heed its call.’
Labour shadow minister Sir Chris Bryant had told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: earlier: ‘How could you have a ceasefire with Hamas who have no intention of laying down their weapons and haven’t even said that they will return the hostages?’
Sir Keir has stopped short of taking disciplinary action against Labour frontbenchers calling for a ceasefire – in contrast to Tory leader Mr Sunak who sacked ministerial aide Paul Bristow for demanding an end to the bloody fighting.
Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu has ruled out a ceasefire in Gaza, declaring a ‘time for war’ amid continuing calls for a humanitarian pause in the conflict from the UK and other allies.
Mr Sunak has been among those pressing for a pause in the fighting to allow Palestinians to flee Gaza and for aid to be distributed.
Similar appeals have been made by the US and other countries, but Mr Netanyahu told Israel’s allies it would not heed calls for ceasefire.
‘The Bible says that there is a time for peace and a time for war. This is a time for war,’ Israel’s PM said in a press conference last night, claiming that laying down arms would be akin to America doing the same after the 9/11 attacks.
Sir Keir is facing one of the biggest crises of his three-and-a-half year leadership of Labour over the conflict in Gaza
Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald has been suspended by Labour, after what a party spokesman said were ‘deeply offensive’ remarks made at a speech during a pro-Palestine rally
Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald has meanwhile been suspended by Labour, after what a party spokesman said were ‘deeply offensive’ remarks made at a speech during a pro-Palestine rally.
Mr McDonald said his reference to the phrase ‘between the river and the sea’ was part of a ‘heartfelt plea’ for peace in the region.
A slogan used by pro-Palestinian demonstrators, ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’, has been described as antisemitic by critics, with Home Secretary Suella Braverman claiming that it is ‘widely understood’ to call for the destruction of Israel.
Mr McDonald, now sitting as an independent, said he would fully co-operate with the investigation into his suspension and trusted ‘that the whip will be restored’.
Sir Chris admitted people in his party are ‘being pulled in many different directions’ over the conflict in Israel and Gaza.
The shadow minister for creative industries and digital told Sky News that Sir Keir would be calling in his speech for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to be brought ‘back on track’.
He added that it is incumbent on all politicians ‘to be very careful about their language’ in regard to the conflict.
Sir Chris earlier told Times Radio that he will personally not use the controversial phrase ‘from the river to the sea’ that has been heard at protests.
Sir Keir has been at odds over his stance on Israel with Labour’s devolved politicians, such as Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sawar (left) and London mayor Sadiq Khan (right) have also defied Sir Keir by calling for a ceasefire in Gaza
The Prime Minister removed Peterborough MP Paul Bristow from his Government role for rebelling against his stance on the Middle East crisis
Mr Bristow, who was elected MP for Peterborough at the 2019 general election, wrote on Facebook last week: ‘We need a ceasefire.’
Humanitarian pauses typically last for short periods of time with the aim of providing aid and support rather than achieving long-term political solutions, according to the United Nations.
Ceasefires are intended to be long-term and usually seek to allow parties to engage in talks, including the possibility of reaching a permanent political settlement.
Labour shadow ministers Yasmin Qureshi, Jess Phillips, and Imran Hussain are among the figures who have joined calls for an immediate end to the fighting.
Sir Keir has also been at odds over his stance on Israel with devolved mayors like Mr Burnham and Mr Khan, and with Labour-led councils across England.
Yesterday Mr Burnham, the Greater Manchester mayor, warned Sir Keir not to label senior Labour politicians ‘disloyal’.
Writing for the Independent, Mr Burnham, who has long been linked with a pitch for Sir Keir’s job, denied being ‘opportunistic’, saying he had learned from the aftermath of terror attacks in New York in 2001, London in 2005 and Manchester in 2017.
‘In times like this, it is simply not possible quickly to arrive at a clear party line,’ he said.
‘MPs’ feelings will change daily as they react to events, balance views of constituents and try to formulate a settled view. Let’s not brand them as disloyal or as if they don’t care about innocent lives.’
The two mayors, Mr Burnham and Mr Khan, and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar are among those who have broken ranks to call for an end to fighting.
There were also claims over the weekend that shadow justice secretary Shabana Mahmood is privately unhappy.
Dozens of Labour councillors have also resigned in protest at Sir Keir’s stance on the Gaza crisis.
Source: Read Full Article