Labour calls for ‘immediate humanitarian ceasefire’ in Gaza as alternative to SNP motion for ‘immediate ceasefire’ – UK politics live | Politics

Labour calling for ‘immediate humanitarian ceasefire’ in Gaza as alternative to SNP’s call for ‘immediate ceasefire’

Labour is going to table an amendment to the SNP motion on Gaza being debated tomorrow. Emilio Casalicchio from Politico has just posted the wording on X.

It is calling for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire”.

It says this means “an immediate stop to the fighting and a ceasefire that lasts and is observed by all sides”.

The SNP motion is shorter, and calls for “an immediate ceasefire” without some of the qualification attached to the sort of ceasefire that Labour wants.

Key events

According to Aubrey Allegretti from the Times, Labour will shortly announced its position on the vote tomorrow on the SNP motion calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. (See 9.54am.)

Labour is finalising its position on the SNP’s ceasefire motion.

Am told to expect an announcement after shadow cabinet, at around midday, on how the party will respond.

Labour figures were concerned about committing to voting one way or another until today – fearing if they…

— Aubrey Allegretti (@breeallegretti) February 20, 2024

Labour is finalising its position on the SNP’s ceasefire motion.

Am told to expect an announcement after shadow cabinet, at around midday, on how the party will respond.

Labour figures were concerned about committing to voting one way or another until today – fearing if they did so, the SNP could have toughened up the wording ahead of the vote and bounced Labour into then sticking or changing its position.

Shadow ministers in recent days have told me they would struggle to abstain on the motion – and are pressing Starmer’s team to back a motion committing to an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza instead of a “permanent ceasefire”.

David Lammy at PLP last night assured colleagues he was in listening mode and understood the strength of feeling across the party.

No surprise perhaps, but my colleague John Crace was not impressed by Rishi Sunak’s speech to the NFU.

Rishi Sunak begins his speech to the NFU at about 11am with the words ‘Good Afternoon’

— John Crace (@JohnJCrace) February 20, 2024

Rishi Sunak ends his speech to the NFU in full bucolic fantasy.

As he rises at dawn to milk the cows, he stops to listen to the oxen lowing in the verdant meadows

— John Crace (@JohnJCrace) February 20, 2024

Sunak tells NFU that reducing trade barriers with EU ‘a work in progress’

At the NFU conference Rishi Sunak described the government’s efforts to reduce trade barriers between the UK and the EU as “a work in progress”.

Asked what the government was doing about the barriers farmers have to deal with when trading with EU countries, Sunak replied:

What we’re doing is working very hard with individual countries to ease all those areas where there are differences.

I’ll be totally honest, it’s a work in progress. But we are making progress.

As PA Media reports, Sunak said ministers were also in dialogue with the EU on electronic authorisations.

Rishi Sunak taking questions at the NFU conference alongside Minette Batters, the NFU president. Photograph: WPA/Getty Images

There will be an urgent question in the Commons at 12.30pm about the government’s decision to close down the family scheme for Ukrainian refugees. Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, has tabled the question, and a Home Office minister will reply. Here is Ben Quinn and Rajeev Syal’s story about the move, announced yesterday.

Helen Pidd

Labour has been preparing for the byelection in Blackpool South since before Christmas, and has a candidate installed – Chris Webb, who until recently worked in the constituency office of the late Rochdale MP, Tony Lloyd.

When the byelection takes place depends on whether Scott Benton digs his heels in and refuses to resign. If he won’t step down, Labour will organise a recall petition, and will need at least 10% of the local electorate to sign it within a six week period. If the 10% threshold is reached, the petition officer informs the speaker of the House of Commons. On the giving of that notice the seat becomes vacant and a byelection is called.

“If Scott doesn’t resign and it causes a recall, it lands right on local election day,” said a local campaign source. “If he does resign we are not sure.”

With a byelection looming, the Conservatives won’t take much comfort from polling by Deltapoll released last night suggesting Keir Starmer’s lead over Rishi Sunak on the leadership approval index is bigger than ever before.

Labour says Scott Benton should resign immediately to save Blackpool South constituents lengthy wait for new MP

Labour says Scott Benton should resign immediately to allow a byelection to be held, instead of forcing constituents to wait for the recall petition process to conclude. Benton could be suspended from the Commons within days. After that a recall petition opens. But the petition remains open for six weeks and, unless Benton resigns, the byelection cannot be called until the petition closes and the 10% threshold has been achieved.

Jonathan Ashworth, a shadow Cabinet Office minister, said:

Scott Benton should do the decent thing and resign, saving the people of Blackpool South a lengthy recall petition that would leave them without the representation they deserve.

This is yet another byelection caused by Tory scandal. Britain deserves better than this carousel of Conservative Chaos.

Labour’s Chris Webb is Blackpool born and bred, and ready to deliver a fresh start for Blackpool South.

Here is an extract from the independent expert panel’s report explaining why it has rejected Scott Benton’s appeal against his 35-day Commons suspension.

For the purpose of deciding the appropriate sanction for breaches of the code, the (standards) committee is well-placed for these purposes as an informed and expert body. We will not lightly interfere with their decision on sanction. Under the procedural protocol, we will do so only if the committee’s decision is unreasonable or disproportionate. We do not find that to be the case here.

Sunak faces prospect of another byelection defeat after Scott Benton loses appeal against 35-day Commons suspension

Rishi Sunak faces another likely byelection defeat. The Commons independent expert panel, which deals with appeals from MPs accused of misconduct, has rejected an appeal from Scott Benton against a standards committee recommendation saying he should be suspended from the Commons for 35 days for offering to lobby on behalf of the gambling industry.

The 35-day suspension will have to be approved by the Commons as a whole, but that will be a formality. And once that has been agreed, because the suspension is longer than 10 days, the Recall Act kicks in, which means that if 10% of voters in the constituency sign a petition calling for a byelection, there will be one. In all recent cases, that 10% threshold has been achieved comfortably.

Benton is MP for Blackpool South and he had a majority for the Conservatives of 3,690 at the last election over Labour. Given the current state of polling, this looks like an inevitable Labour win.

Sunak is now defending the changes to the way grants are paid to farmers.

He says the common agricultural policy, the EU’s grant scheme for farmers, “disproportionately rewarded the largest landowners and held back smaller farmers. He goes on:

It did little for food productivity or the environment. It was far too bureaucratic. Just remember we used to argue about whether a cauliflower and cabbage were the same crop – and you could be fined thousands for a gateway being too wide or a buffer strip too narrow.

Sunak starts with a tribute to farmers, saying that as MP for a rural constituency, Richmond in Yorkshire, he knows how hard they work.

I see firsthand the long hours that you work, the weather that you contend with, the family businesses that you support the communities you build. The beautiful countryside, the pastures, the hedgerows, the fields. That would not be the same without you.

You do it not for praise or high reward but to put food on our tables, to maintain a tradition and a way of life, and to steward our landscape.

It’s part of who we are, and we don’t celebrate you enough. And so, on behalf of the nation, I just wanted to say thank you.

Rishi Sunak speaks to NFU conference

Rishi Sunak is addressing the NFU conference now.

He starts with a tribute to Minette Batters, saying it will be her last conference as NFU president. He says she has been a forceful voice for farming.

Rishi Sunak speaks during a question and answer session with National Farmers’ Union president Minette Batters. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

Updated at 

Last week the Country Land and Business Association published the results of a Survation poll showing a huge drop in support for the Tories in rural constituencies. In its summary of the results the CLA said:

The share of the Labour vote has climbed to 37% (up 17 points on the 2019 general election result), with the Conservatives falling to 34% (down 25 points).

More respondents believe Labour understands and respects rural communities and the rural way of life than the Conservatives (28% versus 25%).

The Conservatives currently hold 96 of the 100 most rural seats, but face losing more than half to Labour and the Lib Dems, including those of Jacob Rees-Mogg, Jeremy Hunt and Thérèse Coffey.

This, and other polling presenting a similar picture, has led to claims that Rishi Sunak is only speaking at the NFU conference for electoral reasons.

But when this was put to Steve Barclay, the environment secretary, on LBC this morning, he said this was not the case. He told the station:

I worked with the prime minister, I was obviously his deputy in the Treasury, and when he asked me to do this role I was very keen that he did come to the NFU conference.

I think it is important to signal that the whole government is absolutely focused on food production and food security. I think the importance of food security has increased given the volatility around the world.

Sunak is the first PM to address an NFU conference since Gordon Brown in 2008.

English farmers to be offered ‘largest ever’ grant scheme amid food security concerns

Rishi Sunak will be addressing the NFU conference in Birmingham shortly. As Helena Horton reports, he will promise farmers the “largest ever” grant scheme, as well as the creation of a food security index, after criticism that Brexit trade deals and poor responses to flooding and rising costs have put England’s ability to feed itself at risk.

Former Tory minister Nick Boles says he wants Starmer to be PM and will do ‘whatever I can’ to help Labour succeed

Nick Boles was elected as a Conservative MP in 2010 and he served as a minister under David Cameron. In 2019 he resigned the Tory whip complaining that hardline colleagues were unwilling to accept a compromise over Brexit, and he left the Commons after the subsequent election.

Now, as PoliticsHome revealed, he is informally advising Labour. He told the Daily Telegraph:

I hope Keir Starmer is able to form a government after the next election. I want to do whatever I can to help a Labour administration succeed.

Nick Boles. Photograph: Will Oliver/EPA

SNP’s Stephen Flynn says US’s draft resolution for UN on Gaza ceasefire does not go far enough

Stephen Flynn, the SNP leader at Westminster, has said that a UN security council resolution proposed by the US calling for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza does not go far enough.

As Julian Borger reports, the draft UN text “marks the first time the US has explicitly backed a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict, though it adds that the temporary truce should be begun ‘as soon as practicable’, leaving some room for manoeuvre by the Israeli military.”

Asked his view on the draft resolution, Flynn told the BBC this morning:

The problem is that ceasefire is included but the word before it is also important and the word we need to hear before it is immediate because we cannot continue to see civilians being killed, some 30,000 people have been killed since the outbreak of this conflict, 70,000 injured, there’s about 1.4 million people sheltering in Rafah which is normally home to about 170,000 people, those people are under constant bombardment from the Israeli defence force who have stated that they intend to launch a ground offensive on that area in the not too distant future.

The death toll could rise exponentially. Enough is enough. We need an immediate ceasefire and that’s what the SNP will continue to champion.

Tomorrow MPs are due to vote on an SNP motion calling for “an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and Israel”. The debate is creating a problem for Labour because many of its MPs support the SNP position, but Keir Starmer has been unwilling to call for an “immediate” ceasefire without an assurance that Hamas would comply.

Starmer is also keen as acting like a prime minister in waiting, acting in concert with diplomatic allies, and not just adopting the language of protest movements. In this respect, the shift in US position might give him some cover.

At the weekend Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, said there had been discussions between SNP and Labour party whips about the vote on Wednesday, but Flynn said this morning that this was not true. He said:

I have had no communication nor has my chief whip with the Labour party, it’s deeply disappointing, and I’m not entirely sure why Anas Sarwar sought to espouse that mistruth, perhaps he was spun a line by Keir Starmer to try and calm him down a little bit, because of course Anas is in support of my position in relation to an immediate ceasefire as I believe most of Scottish Labour are.

Ultimately the key thing for me is making sure that we can protect civilian lives and that is what are going to seek to do in the House of Commons tomorrow night.

Although the SNP says its primary concern is saving lives in Gaza, in Scotland it faces its biggest electoral challenge from Labour and tabling a vote on a ceasefire motion allows it to highlight the bitter divisions in the Labour party on this issue.

Government under fresh pressure over Post Office Horizon scandal as new cover-up evidence revealed

Good morning. Kemi Badenoch, the business and trade secretary, probably left the Commons chamber yesterday afternoon feeling she had done rather well in terms of quashing the allegations made about the government’s handling of the Post Office Horizon scandal. In response to serious claims made by Henry Staunton, the Post Office chair she sacked, she retaliated with blanket, unequivocal denials, scorn and invective, and damning allegations about Staunton’s competence and integrity. Some of these came as a surprise to opposition MPs and, without hard evidence to challenge what Badenoch was saying, their criticisms of her were as a result more muted than they otherwise would have been.

But this morning Badenoch’s “win” does not look quite so convincing, and three developments have occured that pose further problems for her and the government.

1) Staunton has hit back, with a lengthy statement in which he says he had not even been told about the bullying allegation against him that Badenoch implied, in her statement to MPs, was a major reason for his dimissal. A spokesperson for Staunton said:

This is the first time the existence of such allegations have been mentioned and Mr Staunton is not aware of any aspect of his conduct which could give rise to such allegations.

They were certainly not raised by the Secretary of State at any stage and certainly not during the conversation which led to Mr Staunton’s dismissal. Such behaviour would in any case be totally out of character.

The full Staunton statement is here.

2) The BBC has published the results of an investigation showing that “David Cameron’s government knew the Post Office had ditched a secret investigation that might have helped wrongly accused postmasters prove their innocence”. In its story the BBC quotes Paul Marshall, a barrister who acted on behalf of some of the post office operators, saying:

The important feature of all of this is that in 2014, it appears that the Post Office board was alive to the true position – that remote access by Fujitsu was possible.

And yet the Post Office board was responsible for maintaining and advancing the Post Office’s defence to the sub-postmasters’ claim in 2019 – that it was impossible. That was false – and, it would appear, known to be so …

On the face of it, it discloses a conspiracy by the Post Office to pervert the course of justice.

3) Liam Byrne, the Labour chair of the Commons business committee, has said that his committee will be demanding evidence from the business department to establish which version of events – Badenoch’s or Staunton’s – is true. Yesterday the committee invited Staunton to give evidence to it next week. And this morning, in an interview on the Today programme, Byrne said the committee would be requesting papers relating to the row, including the email that Staunton said he wrote, and that he believes is still retained on the Post Office’s system, recording the conversation in which he claims he was told by a government official to “stall” Horizon compensation payments.

In his interview, Byrne also described the BBC story about the Cameron government knowing that the Post Office realised there was a risk of Horizon terminals being access remotely at a time when it was still defending the prosecution of post office operators who were convicted on the basis of Post Office evidence asserting categorically this was not possible. Byrne said the report seemed to be “the first evidence that we’ve got from quite an early stage that ministers were sighted on just what it was that was going on”.

Here is the agenda for the day.

10am: Alex Salmond, the former Scottish first minister, gives evidence to the Commons Scottish affairs committee.

10.15am: Andrew Bailey, the governor of the Bank of England, gives evidence to the Commons Treasury committee.

10.45am: Rishi Sunak gives a speech to the NFU conference.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby conference.

11.30am: Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland secretary, gives evidence to the Commons Northern Ireland affairs committee.

Morning: David Cameron, the foreign secretary, carries out further visits on the Falklands Islands.

If you want to contact me, do try the “send us a message” feature. You’ll see it just below the byline – on the left of the screen, if you are reading on a laptop or a desktop. This is for people who want to message me directly. I find it very useful when people message to point out errors (even typos – no mistake is too small to correct). Often I find your questions very interesting, too. I can’t promise to reply to them all, but I will try to reply to as many as I can, either in the comments below the line; privately (if you leave an email address and that seems more appropriate); or in the main blog, if I think it is a topic of wide interest.

Updated at 

Bir yanıt yazın

E-posta adresiniz yayınlanmayacak. Gerekli alanlar * ile işaretlenmişlerdir