November 15, 2023
From Socialist Worker (UK)

Ceasefire vote: Evening demonstration with very large number of people in Parliament Square with Palestine flags

Thousands protested outside parliament (Picture: Guy Smallman)

MPs bulldozed aside democracy on Wednesday evening and refused support for a ceasefire in Gaza. Those who did not back the motion are complicit in murder.

They have given succour to slaughter by the Israeli state, including the murderous assault the same day on the al-Shifa hospital.

MPs voted 293 to 125 to reject the Scottish National Party’s amendment to the King’s Speech calling for “all parties to agree to an immediate ceasefire”.

Yet a YouGov poll published on 19 October showed 76 percent of British people agreed with a ceasefire. Just 8 percent of respondents objected to the notion of a ceasefire, with 16 percent claiming that they were not sure.

And last Saturday 800,000 people marched for a ceasefire—and other more radical demands—in the second biggest demonstration in British history.

Labour leader Keir Starmer did not support the ceasefire motion. But he saw a major rebellion against his line of calling only for “humanitarian pauses” in the killing.

Ben Jamal, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said, “The Labour amendment with its call for longer humanitarian pauses is grotesque and a profound moral failure. In short, what it is proposing is to delay bombing for a short time to bring in aid and then resume the killing. All Labour MPs who vote for it should be held accountable.”

Some 56 Labour MPs voted for a ceasefire. The scale of the rebellion is similar to that against Tony Blair in March 2003 in a vote on the Iraq war.

Then 121 Labour MPs out of 412—29 percent—rejected his war plans. Starmer on Wednesday had 28 percent defy the whip.

Eight Labour frontbenchers quit or were sacked for voting for a ceasefire. Jess Phillips, Afzal Khan, Yasmin Qureshi, Paula Barker,  Rachel Hopkins, Sarah Owen, Naz Shah, and Andy Slaughter went.

Mary Foy, Angela Rayner’s parliamentary private secretary (PPS), and Dan Carden, another PPS, have also left the frontbench.

It’s good to see this rebellion. But it’s shameful that any Labour MP, and the party leadership in particular, refused to back a ceasefire. They have put loyalty to imperialism, the United States and Israel before the lives of Palestinians.

Outside parliament, up to 15,000 pro-Palestine demonstrators gathered as MPs voted. Lindsey German from Stop the War said, “Shame on the Labour leadership and MPs who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a ceasefire today when Gaza’s parliament was blown up and Israeli soldiers raided al-Shifa hospital. How does any Labour MP who voted against wake up with a clear conscience tomorrow?”

Parliament has refused even the most basic call to end the killing. But the battle is far from over.

Everyone needs to join their local demonstrations this weekend, organise for a national march and also step up the sit-ins, blockades, student and workplace walkouts and other disruptive actions.

  • How your MP voted The obscure procedures of parliament record this vote as an amendment to a Violence Reduction, Policing and Criminal Justice motion. But this is the ceasefire vote.
  • The Irish parliament rejected a motion to expel the Israeli ambassador on Wednesday. People before Profit TD (MP) Richard Boyd Barrett said, “Shamefully, the government counter-motion has defeated the motion by 85 to 55. Shame on this government for failing to sanction Israeli genocide in Gaza. We won’t give up! All out on the streets this Saturday.”

Workplace day of action for Palestine 
A crowd shot of the protest outside City and Islington college, people hold up signs to spell out ceasefire

Workers and students protest outside City and Islington college in north London

Trade unionists took part in a workplace day of action called by the Stop The War Coalition (STW) on Wednesday.

Over 200 strikers, students and supporters held a rally for Palestine outside City and Islington College in north London.

UCU union members at the sixth form are on strike over pay, alongside several other further education colleges across England. Protesters waved Palestine flags and held signs reading, “Ceasefire now,” and, “No to war.” 

Around 100 workers and students joined a walkout and protest at KCL university in central London, organised by the local UCU branch. 

And some 30 college workers in Tower Hamlets, east London, waved Palestine flags at a lunchtime protest.

Other workplaces that took action included Homerton hospital in east London and St Mungo’s charity workers in London. 

Educators at Chelwood nursery gathered outside the south London school in the morning to demand a ceasefire. They held up signs reading, “Ceasefire now,” and “5,000 children”—a reference to the number of Palestinian children murdered by Israeli forces.

In Swansea, workers from the council’s Community Mental Health Team and the Eating Disorders Team raised £140 at work for Medical Aid for Palestine (MAP). And a group of them went outside one of the buildings and waved a Palestine flag. 

In Oxford, postal workers demanded an end to Israel’s onslaught. The CWU union south central branch’s political officer Keith Hamilton and rep Derek Luckett held up signs demanding, “Stop bombing Gaza.”

Hamilton had resigned from Labour, alongside a group of councillors and members in the city, earlier this month.