Starmer facing Labour rebellion as MPs set to vote on Gaza ceasefire motion – UK politics live | Politics

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Gaza ceasefire vote at 7pm GMT likely to see three Labour shadow ministers sacked

We’re about 20 minutes out from a big parliamentary vote for Labour – over an SNP amendment to the king’s speech – that calls for an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The vote threatens to be Keir Starmer’s biggest rebellions as leader, as three Labour frontbenchers have publicly defied the party leadership and called for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The likely outcome is that Starmer will sack them from the shadow front bench this evening.

Naz Shah (Bradford West), Afzal Khan (Manchester Gorton) and Helen Hayes (Dulwich and West Norwood) told fellow MPs in the Commons of their intention to vote for an immediate ceasefire, and scores of backbenchers are expected to join them.

On the evening broadcast round, Labour’s shadow business secretary, Jonathan Reynolds, is on the Andrew Marr show defending Starmer’s position not to support the amendment.

“It’s not a free vote, there is a collective responsibility,” Reynolds said, adding: “It’s not so much about people being sacked as such, but that they would lose their jobs. If they’ve made a decision as a parliamentarian that they can’t be part of that collective decision, they wouldn’t be on the frontbench.”

Keir Starmer at PMQs today.
Keir Starmer at PMQs today. Photograph: UK Parliament/Maria Unger/Reuters

Key events

Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, reveals she has lost a family member in Gaza.

She said they were sheltering in a church in Gaza city, according to statements in the House of Commons, and died not from a bomb but possible lack of access to food and healthcare.

Lib Dem MP Layla Moran tells commons she lost her first family member in Gaza.

They were sheltering in a church in Gaza city.

She says they did not die from a bomb, but possible lack of food or access to care as their health deteriorated.

— Ava-Santina (@AvaSantina) November 15, 2023

All of the hospitals in northern Gaza are “out of service” amid fuel shortages and intense combat, the Hamas-run health ministry in the besieged territory said on Monday.

Labour leader Keir Starmer is “locked in talks with waverers on his frontbench this evening”, Politico reported about an hour ago.

As well as the three frontbenchers mentioned below, other Labour MPs expected to vote for the SNP’s Gaza ceasefire motion are: Tahir Ali, Rosena Allin-Khan, Dawn Butler, Richard Burgon, Ian Byrne, Barry Gardiner, Clive Lewis, Emma Lewell-Buck, Ian Lavery, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Andy McDonald, Rachael Maskell, John McDonnell, Grahame Morris, Imran Hussain, Kate Hollern, Kate Osamor, Kate Osborne, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Zarah Sultana, Jon Cruddas, Jon Trickett, Beth Winter, Mohammad Yasin, and Rupa Huq.

Meanwhile, a crowd of demonstrators is gathering outside parliament this evening to push the case for a ceasefire.

Gaza ceasefire vote at 7pm GMT likely to see three Labour shadow ministers sacked

We’re about 20 minutes out from a big parliamentary vote for Labour – over an SNP amendment to the king’s speech – that calls for an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The vote threatens to be Keir Starmer’s biggest rebellions as leader, as three Labour frontbenchers have publicly defied the party leadership and called for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The likely outcome is that Starmer will sack them from the shadow front bench this evening.

Naz Shah (Bradford West), Afzal Khan (Manchester Gorton) and Helen Hayes (Dulwich and West Norwood) told fellow MPs in the Commons of their intention to vote for an immediate ceasefire, and scores of backbenchers are expected to join them.

On the evening broadcast round, Labour’s shadow business secretary, Jonathan Reynolds, is on the Andrew Marr show defending Starmer’s position not to support the amendment.

“It’s not a free vote, there is a collective responsibility,” Reynolds said, adding: “It’s not so much about people being sacked as such, but that they would lose their jobs. If they’ve made a decision as a parliamentarian that they can’t be part of that collective decision, they wouldn’t be on the frontbench.”

Keir Starmer at PMQs today.
Keir Starmer at PMQs today. Photograph: UK Parliament/Maria Unger/Reuters

Another question that’s arisen after Sunak’s statement: how much extra will the UK pay Rwanda for this potential new treaty?

The answer, so far, is unclear – but it looks like there will be another bill to pay.

On top of the £140m already paid, Home Office officials “could not deny the fact that they are looking at paying Rwanda yet more money for this,” says LBC political editor Natasha Clark on the Andrew Marr show.

“How much more are we going to pay them for a deal which might not see any flights go before the election?” asks Clark.

A reader asks:

If the government want to “lay” a treaty, surely need to pass both Houses of Parliament. Which might pose a problem for a foreign secretary in the Lords…?

In fact, it is very hard for the Commons to block a treaty, and impossible for the Lords, because making treaties is a prerogative power for government, not a power for parliament. The process is explained here.

More reaction from the Conservative backbenches. Natalie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover and Deal, wants Sunak to create a returns agreement with another third country closer to home: France.

“A fresh policy is now needed: a new Cross Channel Agreement with France to stop the boats leaving and return those that do to the safety of the French coast,” she said on X/Twitter. “That should be David Cameron’s top foreign policy priority.”

A fresh policy is now needed: a new Cross Channel Agreement with France to stop the boats leaving and return those that do to the safety of the French coast. That should be David Cameron’s top foreign policy priority.

— Natalie Elphicke MP (@NatalieElphicke) November 15, 2023

It comes after, in September, Keir Starmer said Labour would seek an EU-wide returns agreement for asylum seekers who come to Britain.

This is Jem Bartholomew taking over the blog for the next few hours. Feel free to get in touch with tips and stories via email or X/Twitter.

Andrew Sparrow

Andrew Sparrow

A snap poll by YouGov suggests 39% of people think the government should respond to the supreme court judgment by scrapping the Rwanda policy entirely. Another 29% say the government should find an alternative third country, 14% say “something else”, and the rest don’t know.

That is all from me for tonight. My colleague Jem Bartholomew is taking over now

Cat Neilan from Tortoise says some Tory rightwingers were quite sceptical about what Rishi Sunak had to say.

So much scepticism from the right of the party:
* Treaty won’t solve Supreme Court problems
* Too long (not before GE)
* Voters won’t buy it on 4th time of trying
* Sunak “gave up” on the Red Wall in reshuffle, bringing Cameron back in – he doesn’t mean it on ECHR

— Cat Neilan (@CatNeilan) November 15, 2023

One senior backbencher: “Clear as mud. No idea what is being proposed. What the heck is “emergency” legislation? It’s just legislation. And he didn’t say what it was.”

Notes that given the ruling talked about Refugee Convention etc, “ECHR is the least problematic actually”

— Cat Neilan (@CatNeilan) November 15, 2023

Another Tory figure points out that any “emergency legislation” professing Rwanda a safe country after today would likely fail to pass House of Lords…

Which suggests the Parliament Act may be invoked…

Which takes a year

— Cat Neilan (@CatNeilan) November 15, 2023

He adds: “It was tougher than expected but ultimately none of it will lead to a flight taking off… It was notable he still wouldn’t commit to flights, despite being asked twice.”

— Cat Neilan (@CatNeilan) November 15, 2023

And Adam Payne from Politics Home has heard much the same.

Picking up similar scepticism. One senior figure on the right of the Conservative party feels 10 Downing St calling a press conference and using the term “emergency legislation” to describe what will ultimately be a normal piece of legislation are signs of panic amid Tory fury. https://t.co/jeyiHF2KGk

— Adam Payne (@adampayne26) November 15, 2023

Sunak’s press conference – snap verdict

Rishi Sunak sounded considerably more gung-ho, Brexity and combative on Rwanda at his press conference just now than he did in the House of Commons, and a lot more assertive than James Cleverly, his new home secretary. Tory MPs watching it will probably be impressed.

But if Sunak succeeded, partly he achieved this by a rhetorical sleight of hand. The more hardline MPs have spent the day demanding “emergency legislation”, and almost always they have been referring to something that would allow the UK to ignore the European court of human rights. (See Suella Braverman at 4.27pm.)

And Sunak is going to give them “emergency legislation”. But his version is not the hardline “notwithstanding” measure favoured by Braverman and other leading Brexiters, but instead just a declaration that Rwanda counts as a safe country. This is what Boris Johnson is calling for (see 4.07pm), and Johnson implies all that is needed is secondary legislation under schedule 3 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 2004.

Sunak ought to have realised by now that anyone who thinks a Johnson wheeze is a solution to a complicated problem normally ends up being disappointed, and this may well be the case with this proposal. Just because parliament says Rwanda is safe, will that be enough for the courts?

Sunak confidently declared: “I will not allow a foreign court to block these flights.” But it was not clear exactly what he meant by this, and in his final answer (see 5.10pm) he implied that, with the new treaty and the “emergency legislation” in place, there would be no need for ECHR withdrawal. Braverman is unlikely to agree.

Sunak also in effect promised that flights to Rwanda would start leaving in the spring. But deportations under a new treaty would be subject to legal challenge, and so it could be hard to get even a single flight off the ground before the end of May. The prospect of a large number of deportations taking place by then seems even more remote. The danger for Sunak is that he has raised expectation he will struggle to meet.

Q: How will you stop the European court of human rights blocking the flights to Rwanda?

Sunak says he has already made progress in relation to rule 39 orders – the interim injunctions issued by the European court of human rights. (One of these was used to block the only flight planned to Rwanda.)

He says the UK has been talking to the court about this, and on Monday it announced proposals to reform these.

He says judges issuing these injunctions will be named (at the moment they are not), countries will be able to make representations opposing the injunctions, and the court will only use them in exceptional circumstances.

He says he is confident that, once the treaty is in place, and the new law he is proposing, the UK will be meeting its obligations under the ECHR.

But he says he will not allow a foreign court to block flights to Rwanda once parliament has determined, in law, that it is a safe country.

And that’s the end of the press conference.





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