Keir Starmer’s response to the Gaza conflict has become the “biggest crisis” of his leadership, says Andrew Marr in The New Statesman. His refusal to join scores of Labour councillors and MPs – plus mayors Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan – to call for a ceasefire has provoked fury. Spreadsheets with the positions Labour MPs have taken on Gaza are doing the rounds in Muslim communities. The Tories think the issue could affect election results in 30 parliamentary seats, “well within the range of denying Labour an overall majority”.
But what would calling for a ceasefire actually achieve? For one thing, Starmer’s authority would be “shot”: a U-turn in his first foreign affairs crisis would shatter the impression that he heads a “ruthlessly disciplined machine”. And the argument is a “semantic and tokenistic” one anyway. “Labour’s ability to persuade the Benjamin Netanyahu government and Hamas to stop fighting is less than zero.” Instead, Labour could pledge to make Britain’s support of Israel conditional on better treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank, and speak out about the building of illegal settlements there. “None of this matters as much as the misery and horror in Gaza – nothing like it. But the authority of the probable next British government is in play.”