Labour’s Moral Compass

Trying to track Labour’s changing position on a ceasefire in Gaza is exhausting. It changes so frequently because it is clearly based on no discernible principle like “bombing hospital is wrong” or “genocide is a bad”. So instead what you get is endless sophistry, equivocation and positioning for gain in an election year. Labour are so haunted by the beating they got over allegations of antisemitism under Corbyn that they have tied themselves in knots and forgotten basic humanity. At play here too is the supposedly distinct messaging between Scottish Labour and UK Labour, as well as the Bain Principle, under which Unionist parties agreed never to agree with the SNP – even if you completely agree with them.

Yesterday Humza Yousaf expressed his concern after Labour’s amendment to the SNP’s ceasefire motion removed a reference to Israel’s ‘collective punishment’ of the Palestinian people. Yet as Chris Law MP noted: “The important point is that last Saturday at their conference in Glasgow Labour passed a motion which said “there is no justification for the collective punishment of 2.2million citizens in Gaza”, They are a shambles.

Incredibly Lisa Nandy (she of such great praise for the Spanish authorities) explained to GMB the reason that Labour couldn’t support the SNP motion calling for an immediate ceasefire “is because the motion is vague on who has to stop fighting.”  

Yesterday afternoon, Labour officials told the Guardian newspaper they believed they had successfully persuaded party rebels to vote for the Labour amendment and abstain on the SNP motion.

It’s the deep cynicism of these politicians that remains shocking as 28,000 people have been killed and we’ve all watched it happening, day after grisly day we’ve been watching executions, children under rubble, schools, hospitals and refugee camps bombed. Bombing tents. Labour have been dragged to their latest position reluctantly and even know equivocate and look at the optics.

But what are they so scared of really? You can speculate that they fear retribution from the right-wing media but we are way way beyond that and public opinion is – unsurprisingly – right behind a ceasefire. People are appalled and disgusted by what they have witnessed. In dark irony Labour are doing themselves no favours by acting-out such calculated consideration of the optics. In fact, to simply say, on this one matter we’ll put aside tribal politics and work with the SNP would have given themselves huge credit – and potentially landed the incumbent government a hefty defeat.

Meanwhile a breezy email lands from the company who handle PR for BAE Systems. They write:

“BAE Systems continues to move from strength to strength, with both its full-year revenue and underlying operating profits coming in ahead of its prior guidance. The group manufactures heavy-duty military equipment like fighter jets, aircraft and submarines, and recent global events are keeping demand for its products strong. Despite being a UK-based company, a whopping 42% of its sales came from the US last year, making it the largest single contributor. On an absolute basis, US military spending trumps any other country in the world, so having a large exposure here is proving very beneficial and has helped the group bring in a record £37.7bn worth of orders in 2023.”

They go on:

“But BAE Systems isn’t stopping there. The UK’s largest defence contractor sealed the deal on its £4.4bn acquisition of US-based Ball Aerospace last week, which should further increase its footprint on the other side of the pond. Ball has unique positions in critical space and nuclear deterrence technologies, and the deal looks like a good strategic fit. The new business should enhance top-line growth and margins, contributing positively to the group’s expectations for sales and profits to rise at double-digit rates this year. Against a backdrop of elevated global tensions and rising military budgets, the sky’s looking bright for this jet-maker.”

The sky’s looking bright …

Here’s the SNP immediate ceasefire motion and separate published amendments from Labour, Tories and the Liberal Democrats:


Comments (36)

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  1. I’ll update this column after the vote in the Commons today.

  2. Cathie Lloyd says:

    There’s a time when game playing in the Commons is totally unacceptable. I find myself weeding through the vocabulary to identify ‘end the fighting’ as a way of ignoring how the vast majority of those slaughter are not fighting – just trying to survive. Had I the slightest inclination to vote Labour in the forthcoming elections I would certainly not do so with these weasel words. (apologies to weasels)

  3. 240221 says:

    The question remains: Would Hamas respect any permanent ceasefire, or would it just use it as a period of respite to regroup and resume its war against Israel?

    1. That is one question – though of course a) Hamas has been massively undermined by the IDF response and b) any plausible ceasefire should require peacekeeping forces to enforce it, and, I imagine, an ‘incentive for peace’ for the Palestinians that would further isolate a diminished Hamas.

      1. 240221 says:

        a) It would certainly take time for Hamas to recover from the IDF’s response. It really does need a ceasefire sooner rather than later if it’s to survive at all.

        b) It’s precisely the position of both the British government and its official opposition that any ceasefire should be sustainable or ‘plausible’. This would require a process towards peace that would put in place agreements and mechanisms around issues like hostage release, the policing of the ceasefire, the material and political reconstruction of Gaza, etc. The problem with the SNP’s motion that it lacks this roadmap for a sustainable peace.

        1. Hmm. I think the real problem with the SNP’s motion is that its the SNP’s motion.

          1. 240222 says:

            The real problem with the SNP’s motion was that it offered no practical roadmap to a sustainable ceasefire and it was laid as a trap to expose the divisions (diversity of opinion) within the Labour Party. It was nothing but an exercise in moral posturing and political opportunism. The fact that Labour thwarted this attempt to embarrass the party is the real reason for Tory and SNP outrage at what went down in the Commons yesterday.

            Anyway: For all the Tory and SNP parliamentary games, the most important outcome is that the UK parliament has just endorsed Labour’s amendment for an immediate ceasefire, the release of hostages, a surge in aid, and recognition of a Palestinian state. Result!

          2. Nick C says:


        2. John says:

          Just looking at number of civilians being killed on either side in 2024 shows that this is now a completely one sided war.
          It is therefore not unreasonable that, even though we would all prefer a bilateral ceasefire, in the current circumstances with the imminent attack on Rafah that a one sided ceasefire is a humanitarian necessity.

    2. Paddy Farrington says:

      You could ask the same of Israel. Clearly, a ceasefire does not constitute a permanent end to the violence: the search for that has to be the next stage. But a ceasefire has to come first.

      1. 240221 says:

        I would ask the same of Israel, which brings us back to Mike’s point that any ceasefire agreement, to be plausible, would have to include provision for its policing.

      2. John says:

        Absolutely- there can be no peace without a ceasefire.
        A ceasefire called now would:
        1.drastically reduce the number of innocent civilians being killed.
        2.increase the chance of survival of civilians from hunger and disease.
        3.increase the chance of hostages being released alive.
        4.give all sides and intermediaries a chance to sit down and talk through a longer term peace strategy and plan.
        5.reduce chance of this conflict spilling over into a wider Middle East conflict.
        A ceasefire is the horse and a longer term peace is the cart.
        Even if Hamas do not agree to a ceasefire their military capabilities have been degraded and Israel has such superior defences that Hamas impact on killing of civilians is negligible.
        In short an immediate ceasefire is in everyone’s interests (especially innocent civilians) apart from Israeli government and Hamas (both bad actors in this conflict IMO) and all outside agencies, including UK, should be exerting maximum pressure on Israeli government and Hamas to cease hostilities. Israel is UK ally so it stands to reason therefore that UK can apply more pressure to Israel than Hamas.

  4. Nick C says:

    This is a really complex situation and although I personally abhor the inhumanity of Israel’s assault, and the continuous attempts of the Israeli government to connect anti-Zionism to anti-semitism, I also think that one has to recognise that the Hamas assaults did give Israel the excuse for their attacks.

    It is politically unrealistic to expect Israel to stop what they are doing unless Hamas also make a gesture to de-escalate the situation. I would hope also that all rational and balanced observers would want to see a viable two-state solution in the longer term, so I cannot see why Labour calling for this as part of the motion is not a good thing.

    In my view it is essential to try and avoid a partisan approach to politics (unless you are one of the politicians!) but stand back and try and be objective. I don’t have a position on SNP vs UK Labour, but looked at as dispassionately as I am able to be (and don’t get me wrong – I care deeply about the inhumanity of what is happening in Gaza) I personally feel that Labour’s amendment to the motion ends up with a more balanced, sensible and broader-reaching result. It still condemns the actions of the Israeli government but encapsulates more of the issue in its approach.

    Your post feels to me like the inverse of the Bain principle and has a strong flavour of indignation which is always a bad motivator.

    1. Hi Nick – thanks for your comment. Nobody would doubt the horrific nature of the Hamas attack. The question is whether it is proportionate and whether it has resulted in multiple war crimes and acts of genocide. If your answer to those questions is ‘Yes’ then a sort of ho hum ‘both sides’ even handedness isn’t appropriate, imho. In fact, if the answer to those questions is ‘Yes’ then certain other actions follow: the international community must recognise Israel as an apartheid state, an occupying state, and a state that is conducting genocide. This should result in sanctions, boycott and prosecutions.

      There is further real problems with the ‘two state solution’ as being proposed. Few people see how this is feasible. I am however not an expert in this so welcome input from people more steeped in the regions history. Having said that you do not have to be an ‘expert’ to have humanity and decency.

      1. Nick C says:

        I think you mean “No”, but I totally agree it is disproportionate with everything that goes along with it. I just feel that rejecting the Labour amendment is a bit knee-jerk and that there is plenty of good in it. I am as outraged as the next rational person at the actions of the Israeli government but I feel the Labour amendment covers the ground better, and is more thoughtful and considered than the original SNP motion.

        Outrage is all very well but sometimes it seems to me that there is value in stepping back and adopt a more moderated and nuanced approach.

        Of course the two-state solution is problematic, but what alternative is there? Are you saying that there is no solution? The natural consequence of that given Israel’s overwhelming military strength is that they will seek to eradicate Gaza, and probably the West Bank as well, and subsume them into Israel. How is that a better outcome?

        I totally and completely support your desire for humanity and decency, which are in short supply everywhere at present.

        1. John says:

          Nick – there is plenty of politics on all sides here.
          Previous SNP motion embarrassed Labour leadership when 56 MP’s voted with SNP.
          However, with the imminent attack on Rafah, and the potential humanitarian disaster that this would bring the latest SNP motion is timely even if it has political motives.
          Do you think Labour would have brought any motion without SNP initiative?
          Labour amendment is IMO just further political posturing to try and avoid the embarrassment of an even larger revolt of MP’s and the political fallout that would have taken place.
          We are now at the situation where the vastly overwhelming number of deaths are be inflicted by IDF on Palestinians- mainly civilians. The time for supposed nuance has passed and what is required is a clear message on an immediate ceasefire to reduce the death of innocent civilians.
          I fail to understand the difference putting word humanitarian in as I yet to witness a ceasefire which isn’t humanitarian!

          1. Nick C says:

            John, irrespective of the political backdrop it seems to me that the Labour amendment has merit and is better considered and more wide-ranging than the SNP motion. You can call it whatever you choose – political posturing if you want – but I fundamentally disagree with your suggestion that there is no place for nuance in the authoring of a government motion. The timing of the issuing of the motion will not be any different but if the result is a better outcome then surely that is not a bad thing, as you are suggesting?

            Both versions (let’s not introduce the government attempt into this) are calling for an immediate ceasefire – it is just that the Labour amendment has broader scope.

          2. John says:

            Nick – I would have agreed with you when last vote was held but the situation of civilians in Palestine is now so desperate that I think the bluntness and clarity of SNP motion is required to try and avoid the imminent humanitarian disaster.
            I note that Stephen Flynn has said that SNP will support Labour amendment which is welcome as it will help focus on Gaza and not on Westminster politics,.

          3. 240222 says:

            So, why didn’t Stephen support the Labour amendment to his motion after all?

          4. 240222 says:

            It couldn’t be because he wanted to focus on Westminster politics rather than Gaza, would it?

  5. Derek Thomson says:

    Hamas are the elected representatives of the people of Palestine, are they not? I keep hearing about “hamas-run” health clinics, and keep imagining how they can run health clinics when they’re clearly all crazed fanatics, no? Or maybe we’ve been duped into lumping all members of Hamas as terrorists, when they’re clearly not? When was the last time you heard the word spat out as if it were an insult when it could well have been referring to the guy who drove the bin lorry.

    1. Nick C says:

      What would be MUCH better would be if Hamas was not both the name for the people who are running Palestine and for its terrorist wing. I cannot understand why they wrap the two up together. It is totally unhelpful to any peace process to have terrorists being part of the administration, and I cannot see anything but negative consequences.

      One of the fundamental things that enabled NI to move towards resolving the situation there from the early 1980s onwards was that Sinn Fein and the IRA were increasingly presented as separate bodies. Prior to that it was much more muddy, but then again Sinn Fein did not actively have a political role in NI.

      It is the same with Palestine – it seems to me that it will undoubtedly be necessary for a credible administrative body which eschews terrorism to be formed before Israel will engage with them. A two-state solution is the only viable way out of this unholy and appalling mess, but there must be change on the Palestinian front for that to be possible.

      1. Whoever says:

        The slaughtering terrorists and the Gazan government are the same. They can be considered as a government’s army. Hamas is short for the Islamic Resistance Movement in Arabic, and one of their constitutional clauses is perpetual Jihad against Israel, and possibly Shiites as well.

    2. 240222 says:

      Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections and assumed administrative control of the Gaza Strip. There haven’t been elections since.

      In 2007, Hamas led a military victory over Fatah, the secular Palestinian nationalist party, which had previously dominated the Palestinian National Authority and still holds power in the West Bank, in an attempt to oust Palestine’s so-called ‘unity government’ and seize control of the Authority for its own ends (to destroy the State of Israel through the prosecution of a holy war and to ‘raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine’). In response to Hamas’s coup, the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, the current Fatah leader, declared state of emergency, which (I believe) is still in force.

      Since then, Hamas has taken administrative control of and weaponised all health and social services in Gaza, as well as its economy, thus extending its political control over a population it has made dependent for its access to those services on Hamas approval and dispensation.

      After almost 20 years of totalitarian rule, Hamas’s claim to democratic legitimacy in Palestine is wearing a bit thin.

      1. Nick C says:

        This is why it is such a complex solution, and also why the Labour amendment should be credited for its much more carefully-drafted and broader-reaching content.

        1. Nick C says:

          Sorry, solution->issue.

        2. 240222 says:

          Yep; Labour’s amendment certainly improved the SNP’s motion and turned it into something that ALL Labour MPs could vote for.

  6. John Learmonth says:

    Surely the Labour Party should look after the interests of the working classes of the UK, that’s what they were founded to do.
    All very tragic what’s going on in Israel/Palestine but what’s it got do with us?
    How would we react if the Israeli/Palestine politicians started lecturing us?
    They wouldn’t as its got nothing to do with them, so why are so many people obsessed with the travails of the region.
    Could it be anything to do with the fact that the large Muslim population of the UK overwhelming vote Labour and that many people on the left detest Israel for whatever reason.
    The people of the region need to sort out their own problems and we need to sort out ours.

    1. Nick C says:

      Isolationism can have very severe long-term consequences for everyone. Be careful what you wish for.

      1. John Learmonth says:

        So can interfering in regions we know nothing about
        Be careful what you wish for

    2. Paddy Farrington says:

      What’s it to do with us? Well, the UK’s colonial history, for a start. Funny how so many of the world’s problems have to do with just that.

    3. 240222 says:

      The geopolitics of the Middle East (e.g. who controls oil production and passage through the Suez canal) is of strategic economic importance to the British working class in terms of employment and the cost of living. It’s only right and proper that the Labour Party continues to look after its constituency’s interest in these matters.

  7. SleepingDog says:

    “But what are they so scared of really?”
    Well, one realistic if unflattering answer is that the Israelis have used their advanced spyware to compile compromising material on British politicians and have blackmailed them into supporting its government’s aims.
    I mean, why wouldn’t they? And, who expects our politicians to be clean?

    1. 240222 says:

      Aha! A Jewish conspiracy!

      1. Brian Howard says:

        Who mentioned Jews? I find it extremely antisemitic to conflate a religion and it’s members (Judaism) with a racist, apartheid, genocidal state (Israel) and it’s horrible deplorable actions.

        There are many Jews all over the world who abhor Israel and everything it stands for.

        1. 240223 says:

          Aha! A Zionist conspiracy.

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