YOU can’t convince two-thirds of the population that they are “extremists.” But remarkably, the British political class is going to try.

Pollsters have been monitoring public attitudes to the Gaza conflict since the appalling events of ­October 7 and the thunderclap of violence which followed. The simple reality is that the ­overwhelming majority of British people back a ceasefire in Gaza, and have done so for months. For some time, significant parts of ­British ­politics have been pretending this is not true.

They have focused – not on ­manufacturing consent for the UK ­Government’s ­foreign policy – but in trying to represent the widespread dissent facing it as illegitimate, ­radicalised, mobbish and extreme.

Despite all the industry being put into flipping reality in its head, despite the work politics and parts of the press have been ­doing to invert this reality – the ­basic facts of public opinion are stubborn and ­unchanging. 

Just look at the numbers

According to YouGov’s latest findings, two-thirds of ­British people believe Israel should stop and call a ceasefire. 66% think Israel should now be prepared to enter into negotiations with Hamas. Just 13% of British people ­believe Israel should continue to pursue its military campaign in Gaza.

Two-thirds of Britons also support a two-state solution, where ­independent ­Palestinian and Israeli states exist ­alongside each other. No other option – including the forced displacement of any population from the region – attracts any significant support, despite the prevalence of this ­talking point.

YouGov’s data also suggests public ­sympathy for Israel’s actions in this ­conflict has fallen since November, as legitimate self-defence against terror evolved, in the ­language of the recent SNP ­motion, into “the collective punishment of the ­Palestinian people” for the actions of ­Hamas on October 7.

You may or may not support any of these positions – but they’re mainstream, not ­extreme, convictions about what’s ­happening.

They also aren’t new. By mid-November last year, the polling already suggested that 59% of the British electorate supported a ceasefire. In Westminster, the SNP laid its first ceasefire motion, arguing that “war crimes are being committed in Gaza,” and demanding that all armed conflict should cease. That first House of ­Commons vote was public opinion in reverse. Some 70% of MPs who cast a vote rejected ­ceasefire calls. Sir Keir Starmer ordered his party colleagues to abstain – losing 10 ­frontbenchers and the support of 56 of his own MPs in the process.

In a sign of things to come, Starmer-friendly figures in the media ecosystem immediately slammed their opponents for publishing which way individual MPs had voted. The bafflingly rehabilitated Alastair Campbell decried sharing MPs’ voting records as “nastiness” – kicking off the now familiar re-framing of legitimate scrutiny, criticism and public accountability of public office holders – as suspect bullying and intimidation.

British public opinion on Gaza isn’t complicated. The professional political ­explainers can pretend this is all ­terribly geopolitically unsophisticated. But it ­really isn’t.

When the public see the smouldering ruins of ambulances and ­hospitals, the blacked dead and ­amputated ­children, when they watch sobbing ­orphans and grief-ruined parents digging through ­rubble in the hopes of finding survivors, when they read reports of the army ­opening fire on humanitarian aid convoys, when they see with their own eyes the dispossessed, the bereaved and the lost drifting like ghosts through the broken shadow of their homes and towns, emaciated civilians boiling animal feed to give their kids scant sustenance and grinning soldiers looting civilian property – they’re going to have a problem with it.

They may not all march. But they know what an unjust war looks like when they see one.

The Herald: Israel Gaza

If Rishi Sunak wants to find concrete evidence supporting his suggestion last night that “we’re a reasonable country and a decent people” – he need look no further than public attitudes to this ­conflict.

Whether or not you describe the actions as genocide or genocidal – most folk have a common, uncomplicated moral sense that an army waging a war which has killed more than 25,000 women and children must be indefensible.

This is the backdrop against which you should evaluate the Prime Minister’s ­suggestion that “there is a growing consensus that mob rule is replacing democratic rule” in the United ­Kingdom. Because the more prosaic truth is – the UK ­Government and His Majesty’s Loyal ­Opposition have managed to adopt ­positions on this conflict which are wildly out of step with public opinion and public sympathies.

Having both chosen an uncomfortable regime to defend, they are both finding the experience uncomfortable. They should.

But rather than tholing their ­political choices with fortitude – and ­perhaps ­rolling out those hoary old quotes from Edmund Burke that elected representatives “owe you their judgement” and ­“betray, instead of serving you, they ­sacrifice it to your opinion” – we’re now to be treated to the pitiable spectacle of everyone from the Prime Minister to the leader of the opposition diverting the conversation from the terrible violence the Israeli government has unleashed to feeling sorry for themselves about receiving a hostile mailbag and losing a by-election by sketching out a position on Gaza which is unacceptable to the overwhelming majority of the British electorate.

In the process, definitions of intimidation are to be stretched so widely that peace campaigners can be described as “hate mobs”, defined by the worst and most peripheral elements of those ­protesting against the horror which continues to ­unfold in the ­Middle East, ­accompanied by the inevitable ­commitment to new crackdowns to ­replace the old ­crackdowns.

When this happens, people will ­protest and continue to protest until the policy changes. It’s entirely rational to do so. This too, apparently, is a surprise to ­senior members of the Government who seem to think protest is a tokenistic day oot.

In an interview with The Times this week, James Cleverly suggested that protestors against the war in Palestine have “made their point” and were “not really saying anything new” by continuing, week after week, to mark their objections to the ongoing conflict on Britain’s streets. The Home Secretary’s message, essentially, is “I’m bored. Pack up and go home”.

“The question I ask myself is,” he said, is “‘what are these protests genuinely ­hoping to achieve?’ They have made a point and they made it very, very loudly and I’m not sure that these marches every couple of weeks add value to the ­argument, they’re not really saying ­anything new.”

Cleverly accompanied this dumb reflection with calls to think about the costs of policing these protests, suggesting that protesters are selfishly squandering ­precious police resources.

The Herald: Keir Starmer

There’s every reason to think that a ­future Labour government would ­enthusiastically embrace this authoritarian agenda – reflected by Starmer’s ­predictable and immediate ­endorsement of Sunak’s hyperbolic attempt to ­represent Britain as on the cusp of our own January 6-style Capitol Riot.

After all, Starmer’s promise of “a ­politics that treads a little lighter on all of our lives” includes the prospect of longer prison terms for people who glue ­themselves to the M8, echoing ­now-familiar ­government lines explaining why it was hugely necessary and ­exceedingly appropriate for the cops to huckle people booing Charles at his coronation while simultaneously boasting about how freedom and fair play are indispensable British values.

Being accused of complicity in genocide is bound to be unpleasant. Being accused of complicity in gross violations of basic rights, including visiting hunger, death and destruction on civilian population and infrastructure ought to be uncomfortable.

People of good conscience would rather not see their actions and inactions in these terms – but these are the stakes in Gaza. The British public understand that.

Our politicians? This week suggests they’d rather talk about themselves.