FEWER than one in ten Labour councillors are satisfied with Sir Keir Starmer's position on Israel and Palestine, according to a new poll.

The survey found that across the UK just 37% of Labour councillors are satisfied with the party leadership’s position on the Israel-Palestine conflict, while 43% are dissatisfied.

Some 43% said say Starmer’s handling of the Israel-Palestine conflict makes them feel more negatively about the party, with 41% saying it makes no difference. 

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One in six - 17% - of Labour councillors said that they have considered resigning their party membership over Starmer’s handling of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

A quarter - 26% - of Labour councillors say that Labour’s handling of the Israel-Palestine conflict is coming up regularly on the doorstep, though half say it is not.

Starmer and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar have adopted differing approaches to the war. The latter has called for a ceasefire while the former has not.

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Chris Hopkins, Political Research Director at Savanta, which conducted the research said: “The first survey of Labour councillors on the Israel-Palestine conflict finds a fairly divided set of elected members, with fairly equal proportions saying their dissatisfied and satisfied with the leadership's position on the issue, and fairly equal proportions understanding and not understanding the reasons behind not calling for a ceasefire.

The Herald: Scottish Labour leader Anas SarwarScottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has supported calls for a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza conflict. Photo PA.

"While there are plenty of Labour councillors right behind Starmer's decision-making thus far, these results imply there is also a significant proportion who are not, putting the leadership in an awkward and uncomfortable position. Labour will be relying heavily on its base of councillors, integral to its ground campaign, at the next election, and with such a large proportion thinking more negatively towards the leadership over this issue could present a threat to Starmer's standing among the membership at a crucial stage in the election cycle."

Savanta interviewed 618 Labour councillors from 27 October to 2 November 2023. 
Earlier this week it emerged that Sarwar had claimed Starmer’s comments on the conflict in Gaza lacked “empathy” and “humanity” during a private event.

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The Scottish Labour leader has said his party will have to do a “repair job” with Muslim voters “every day” until the general election after Starmer’s early remarks about the conflict in Gaza.

Sarwar was reportedly upset with Starmer over a radio interview on October 11, in which he suggested Israel had the “right” to withhold water and supplies from Gaza after the Hamas terror attack.

He was said to be furious about the comments which lacked both “humanity” and “empathy”.
Sarwar was reportedly angered further when it took his party leader days to clear up that this was not his position.

The Scottish Labour leader vented at a meeting of MSPs and the Labour Muslim Network on October 16 over Starmer’s backing for Israel’s actions.

This week the Glasgow MSP, normally a close ally of Starmer, diverged from his leader’s position and joined other Labour figures in calling for a ceasefire.

Starmer has continued to resist calls for a ceasefire saying it would only “embolden” Hamas militants to launch another attack.

Private talks have taken place between Edinburgh and London to try to change Starmer’s position.

Starmer has been under pressure to articulate a policy on the Israel-Hamas war to resolve tensions within his party. Some prominent Labour politicians have supported a ceasefire, while others, including Starmer, have only called for a “humanitarian pause”