After last week’s Prime Ministerial statement on Israel and Gaza, I counted 26 Conservative backbench questions supportive of Israel or Jews in the UK, and four supportive of Palestine or Palestinians in Gaza.
And on the Labour side, four supportive of Israel or Jews in the UK, and 18 supportive of Palestine or Palestinians in Gaza.
This week, those figures are, for the Conservatives, 17 and three; and, for Labour, two and 14. The lower numbers contributing is a consequence of this week’s statement being half an hour or so shorter.
Even with the lower number, the drop in neutral questions from 18 to nine is worth noting. MPs appear to be moving into one camp or the other as the crisis continues.
My interest in these Commons statement is driven by their implications, if any, for domestic politics – and in particular on Labour, since Sir Keir Starmer, as I wrote last week, may struggle to hold his bipartisan position.
If there was no major shift in Sir Keir’s policy yesterday, there was a significant one in one. “Labour stands with Israel. Britain stands with Israel,” he said last week.
He wasn’t so direct yesterday – and devoted more of his response to the Prime Minister to the plight of Palestinians in Gaza. Readers will have seen reports during the past week of resignations of Labour councillors over the party’s position, and some broader Labour unease.
So what Sir Keir and Labour MPs say in the Commons is worth keeping an eye on.
Once again, I stress that dividing MPs up in this way is an art, not a science, and some of my judgements are contestable. Furthermore, the broad headings must encompass other concerns – such as the effect of the conflict on anti-Muslim prejudice in Britain.
| Israel or Jews in the UK
Palestine or Palestinians in Gaza