Labour leader Keir Starmer was met with angry chants and placards from pro-Palestinian protesters as he arrived in Glasgow for a speech on Thursday. The demonstrators accused him of being complicit in Israel’s attacks on Gaza and demanded that he support a ceasefire.
Starmer’s stance on Gaza conflict sparks criticism
Starmer has faced growing criticism from within his own party and from the public over his stance on the Gaza conflict, which has killed more than 200 Palestinians and 12 Israelis since it erupted on November 4. He has repeatedly called for a humanitarian pause, rather than a full ceasefire, arguing that a pause would allow aid to reach Gaza and hostages to leave, while a ceasefire would leave Hamas’s infrastructure intact and enable them to launch future attacks.
However, many Labour MPs, councillors, activists and voters have disagreed with Starmer’s position, saying that it is not enough to stop the bloodshed and that he is siding with Israel over the rights of Palestinians. More than 60 Labour MPs have signed a parliamentary motion urging the UK government to press for an immediate de-escalation and cessation of hostilities by both sides. At least 330 Labour councillors have also signed a letter to Starmer, asking him to back a ceasefire and condemn Israel’s violations of international law. Some councillors have even resigned from the party in protest over Starmer’s pro-Israel stance.
Pro-Palestinian protesters confront Starmer in Glasgow
On Thursday, Starmer travelled to Glasgow to deliver a speech on his vision for the UK after the pandemic. However, as he arrived at the venue, he was greeted by a crowd of pro-Palestinian protesters, who shouted slogans such as “Free Palestine”, “Starmer out” and “Shame on you”. They also held up signs that read “Stop arming Israel”, “Labour: speak up for Palestine” and “Keir Starmer: complicit in war crimes”.
The protesters tried to block Starmer’s car and banged on the windows, forcing the police to intervene and clear a path for him. Starmer did not engage with the protesters and proceeded to enter the building. He did not mention the Gaza conflict in his speech, which focused on his plans to rebuild the economy, the NHS and the education system after the Covid-19 crisis.
Starmer faces pressure to change his position
Starmer’s encounter with the protesters in Glasgow is the latest sign of the pressure he is facing to change his position on the Gaza conflict. He has been accused of being out of touch with the public opinion and the Labour grassroots, who are overwhelmingly sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. He has also been warned that his stance could cost him votes in the next general election, especially among Muslim and young voters, who are more likely to support a ceasefire and condemn Israel’s actions.
Starmer has tried to defend his position, saying that he is driven by a desire to defend Israel’s right to self-defence against terrorist attacks and the rights of Palestinians caught in the crossfire. He has also said that he supports a two-state solution and that he wants to see an end to the occupation and the settlements. However, his critics have argued that his position is not credible and that he is ignoring the reality of the situation on the ground, where Israel is using disproportionate force and violating human rights.
Starmer has also faced calls to discipline some of his frontbenchers, who have diverged from the official party line and expressed support for a ceasefire. However, he has not taken any action against them, saying that he will engage sensitively with their concerns. He has also suspended one of his backbenchers, Andy McDonald, over what the party described as “deeply offensive” comments at a pro-Palestinian rally.