Labour frontbencher Imran Hussain has quit the Shadow Cabinet over the party’s stance on the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.
The Bradford East MP – who was appointed Shadow Minister for Employment Rights over three years ago – says he can no longer campaign “in all good conscience” for an immediate ceasefire with his ministerial role.
In his resignation letter to Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer, he writes: “Over recent weeks, it has become clear that my view on the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe is Gaza differs substantially from the position you have adopted.
“As I write, more than 1,400 Israeli and over 10,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed in the last month. This shocking number of fatalities is set to grow as indiscriminate attacks and the siege of Gaza continues. Yesterday, the United Nations Secretary-General warned that Gaza is becoming a ‘graveyard for children’ and stated that a humanitarian ceasefire becomes ‘more urgent with every passing hour.’
“Given the crisis unfolding, I wish to be a strong advocate for the humanitarian ceasefire advocated by the UN General Secretary, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other UN humanitarian bodies, by numerous governments, and by leading humanitarian organisations like Oxfam, Save the Children, and Amnesty International.
“It is clear that I cannot sufficiently, in all good conscience, do this from the frontbench given its current position.”
The letter continues: “The situation in Gaza is now beyond that of a humanitarian catastrophe. The cutting of food, water, power, and medicine to Palestinians in Gaza is an act of collective punishment that violates international law, and it is a clear war crime under the Geneva Conventions.
“I was therefore deeply troubled by the comments you made during an LBC interview where you appeared to endorse such actions by the Israeli military. Whilst I appreciate your subsequent statements to clarify your comments and the increased emphasis being placed on addressing the desperate situation in Gaza, and whilst we both want to end the bloodshed, I believe the party needs to go further and call for a ceasefire.”
The letter concludes: “I will therefore continue to press from the backbenches for a humanitarian ceasefire to protect civilians in line with the demands of the UN Secretary-General and, beyond that, for the realisation of a lasting resolution that will deliver peace for Israelis and Palestinians as part of a two-state nation.”
Imran Hussain’s resignation comes just a week after leading Labour Councillor Taj Salam, who represented Bradford Council for the Little Horton ward from 2000 to 2004 and again from 2015, quit the party he’s been a member of since 1997 over Sir Keir’s controversial LBC Radio comments, claiming Sir Keir has “overlooked the core values of the Labour Party.”
In an interview with Asian Standard Cllr Salam said: “If I was in front of Sir Keir now then I’d urge him to issue a public apology for all the public upset he’s caused and quite frankly if he wasn’t prepared to do this then I’d say do the honourable thing and resign.
“I was totally devastated when I first heard his comments. They were utterly insensitive and go against the core principles of what the Labour Party is meant to represent.
“I joined the Labour Party in 1997 and did everything I could to promote it and be an active ‘foot soldier.’ This included representing Little Horton twice on Bradford Council which I was very honoured and proud to do.
“I unequivocally condemn all acts of violence. The attack of Hamas targeting innocent Israeli citizens is totally unacceptable and I join the calls for the immediate release of all Israeli hostages.”
The MP’s resignation puts Starmer’s leadership under strain.
Several senior Labour MPs do not feel his comments on the Middle East conflict this week have done enough to “hold the parliamentary Labour party together,” given the “level of anger within Labour’s grassroots”.
Senior Labour figures, including the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, the Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, and the Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, have also challenged Starmer’s stance.
The Labour leader of Burnley Borough Council Afrasiab Anwar resigned along with ten other councillors in protest at Starmer’s refusal to call for a ceasefire; while at least 330 Labour councillors have signed a letter urging Starmer to back a ceasefire.
Sir Keir has argued that a ceasefire would freeze the status quo and that Hamas’s murder of 1,400 people on 7 October and the group’s stated intention to strike again and again makes this untenable.