The Senned or Welsh Parliament has backed a Plaid Cymru motion calling for a ceasefire in Gaza by 24 votes to 19. The vote has exposed deep divisions within the Welsh Labour Party. Leader, Mark Drakeford, has been following the party line from Keir Starmer in calling for a “humanitarian pause”.
Rhun ap Iorwerth, Leader of Plaid Cymru, responded that Plaid Cymru was making:
…a clear and unequivocal call for a ceasefire—both sides—an immediate and lasting end to the violence and a global effort to ease the humanitarian suffering. And, whilst any pause in the fight would be welcome to enable vital aid and supplies to reach those in need, any pause must surely be with a view to become permanent: that’s why a ceasefire is the call. Plaid Cymru believes pursuing a pause, a suspension, implies the acceptance of the inevitability of an eventual return to further loss of civilian life.Plenary 08/11/2023 – Welsh Parliament (senedd.wales)
In a free vote, eleven Labour Senned members backed the motion; but two signed the Conservative motion calling for “a suspension of hostilities to allow for the establishment of humanitarian corridors”, and four Labour members voted with the Conservatives; 13 members of Labour’s front bench, including Mark Drakeford, abstained. Health Minister Eluned Morgan, has been outspoken in her calls for a ceasefire but joined the abstentionists. Welsh Labour appears to be much more evenly divided on the question of a ceasefire than its English counterpart — but, as we pointed out yesterday, Labour divisions are growing in England.
Labour MP, Imran Hussain, has quit Sir Keir Starmer’s shadow ministerial team so he can advocate for a ceasefire in Gaza. Imran Hussein is one of 39 Labour MPs who have signed an Early Day Motion, tabled by Labour MP Richard Burgon, calling for a ceasefire. According to the BBC, “68 Labour MPs have publicly expressed views that are, or could be perceived to be, at odds with the party leadership. That is a third of Labour MPs. And 17 frontbenchers have put out statements, written or shared posts on social media doing the same.”
While we would hope that they are all are equally motivated by their horror at the Israeli onslaught in Gaza, it is worth noting that, again according to the BBC, eleven of those front benchers are in constituencies with a significant number of Muslim voters. The strength of Labour dissent will be put to the test when it comes to a vote on Labour MP, Zara Sultana’s amendment to the King’s Speech calling for an “immediate ceasefire” in order to “protect civilians in Israel and Palestine”.
Whatever the electoral calculations, we have to put pressure on the Tory government and the Labour opposition to support international calls for a ceasefire instead of giving carte blanche to Israel’s policy of genocide in Gaza and ethnic cleansing on the West Bank. While we welcome the Senned vote, the real test is to mobilise the overwhelming support for a ceasefire amongst the public into support for the mass demonstrations that have been growing throughout the conflict.
This Saturday’s mobilisation in London is going to be huge. It is going ahead in the face of a virulent hate campaign from the government and its allies in the mass media, which has emboldened the far right to call for counter demonstrations to protect the Cenotaph. The best way to defend Palestine and our freedom of speech is to make Saturday’s march the biggest so far. It may even persuade more Labour MPs to follow their conscience instead of their career.
Life long socialist. Now retired, I have been an office junior, a bookseller, a docker and a teacher. I write a lot and read a lot more. Committed member of the Society of Authors, English PEN and the National Education Union. Never voting Labour again.