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Keir Starmer SUSPENDS Labour MP for ‘between the river and the sea’ comments at pro-Palestinian rally – after Rishi Sunak piles pressure on by SACKING Tory parliamentary aide over Gaza ‘ceasefire’ call


Sir Keir Starmer tonight suspended a Labour MP after they used the phrase ‘between the river and the sea’ at a pro-Palestinian rally this weekend.

Andy McDonald, the MP for Middlesbrough, has had the Labour whip suspended pending an investigation.

It followed his ‘deeply offensive’ comments at a demonstration on Saturday.

The action against Mr McDonald, a former shadow minister, came after Rishi Sunak sacked a Tory parliamentary aide who defied him by demanding a ‘permanent ceasefire’ in Gaza.

The Prime Minister removed Paul Bristow from his Government role for rebelling against his stance on the Middle East crisis.

The Peterborough MP will no longer serve as a Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.

During a rally in central London on Saturday, Andy McDonald used the phrase 'between the river and the sea' as he made a speech urging peace between Israelis and Palestinians

During a rally in central London on Saturday, Andy McDonald used the phrase ‘between the river and the sea’ as he made a speech urging peace between Israelis and Palestinians

The 65-year-old, who served as a shadow minister under ex-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, also used the phrase on social media as he posted a video of his speech

The 65-year-old, who served as a shadow minister under ex-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, also used the phrase on social media as he posted a video of his speech

During a rally in central London on Saturday, Mr McDonald used the phrase ‘between the river and the sea’ as he made a speech urging peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

He said: ‘We won’t rest until we have justice, until all people, Israelis and Palestinians, between the river and the sea can live in peaceful liberty.’

The 65-year-old, who served as a shadow minister under ex-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, also repeated the comments on social media as he posted a video of his speech. 

Some pro-Palestinian protesters have chanted ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ during recent demonstrations in London, despite controversy around the slogan’s meaning.

A Labour spokesperson said: ‘The comments made by Andy McDonald at the weekend were deeply offensive, particularly at a time of rising antisemitism which has left Jewish people fearful for their safety.

‘The chief whip has suspended the Labour whip from Andy McDonald, pending an investigation.’

Earlier today, Downing Street said it was ‘not acceptable’ for people to chant ‘from the river to the sea’ in the wake of the Hamas terror attacks on Israel.

Asked about the PM’s view on the chant, Mr Sunak’s official spokesman said: ‘I haven’s asked him specifically about that phrase but we understand clearly this is a deeply offensive chant to many and I think people need to be responsible with their use of language.

‘It’s up to the police to make an operational decision about the use of that language, if they see fit to do so.

‘But we can understand how the use of that language and others will be of significant concern to many.’

Asked if Mr Sunak would tolerate one of his own MPs tweeting the phrase, the spokesman replied: ‘I wouldn’t get into a hypothetical situation, but this would be a deeply offensive chant to many people.’

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has said the hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets in support of Palestine were taking part in ‘hate marches’. 

The Prime Minister removed Peterborough MP Paul Bristow from his Government role for rebelling against his stance on the Middle East crisis

The Prime Minister removed Peterborough MP Paul Bristow from his Government role for rebelling against his stance on the Middle East crisis

Rishi Sunak, pictured today with his wife Akshata Murty, acted after Mr Bristow used social media to express his support for a ceasefire

Rishi Sunak, pictured today with his wife Akshata Murty, acted after Mr Bristow used social media to express his support for a ceasefire

Mr Bristow, who was elected MP for Peterborough at the 2019 general election, wrote on Facebook last week: 'We need a ceasefire.'

Mr Bristow, who was elected MP for Peterborough at the 2019 general election, wrote on Facebook last week: ‘We need a ceasefire.’

Sir Keir Starmer is currently experiencing one of the biggest crises of his party leadership after a string of senior Labour figures defied his position on Israel

Sir Keir Starmer is currently experiencing one of the biggest crises of his party leadership after a string of senior Labour figures defied his position on Israel

This evening, the PM took action against Mr Bristow after the Peterborough MP used social media to express his support for a ceasefire.

He had also written wrote to Mr Sunak to push for an end to fighting between Israel and Hamas.

No10 sources said Mr Bristow’s removal as a PPS showed how Mr Sunak was ‘ruthless’ compared to ‘spineless’ Sir Keir.

The Labour leader is currently experiencing one of the biggest crises of his party leadership after a string of senior figures defied his position on Israel.

More than half a dozen Labour frontbenchers have publicly called for ceasefire in the Middle East.

This is despite Sir Keir having repeatedly backed Israel’s right to defend itself in the wake of the Hamas terror attacks on 7 October.

Despite the public rebellion against him, the Labour leader has shown little appetite for taking action against his revolting MPs.

Mr Bristow, who was elected MP for Peterborough at the 2019 general election, wrote on Facebook last week: ‘Ordinary Palestinians are not Hamas.

‘I struggle to see how Israel is any safer following thousands of deaths of innocent Palestinians.

‘They should not suffer collective punishment for the crimes of Hamas. We need a ceasefire.’

In his letter to the PM, which he also posted to social media, Mr Bristow added: ‘A permanent ceasefire would save lives and allow for a continued column of humanitarian aid can reach the people who need it the most.’

Explaining Mr Sunak’s decision to sack Mr Bristow as a PPS in the wake of his comments, a senior Number 10 source said: ‘It’s very important we speak with one voice.

‘There are real consequences in the Middle East and at home if we go wobbly.

‘If we’d suffered a terror attack we’d expect our allies to support us in self defence.’

Mr Sunak has expressed support for a ‘humanitarian pause’ in hostilies between Israel and Hamas to allow for the safe delivery of aid to civilians.

But the PM has continued to reject calls for a full ceasefire, with Downing Street Street arguing the move would ‘only serve to benefit Hamas’.

A Number 10 spokesperson said: ‘Paul Bristow has been asked to leave his post in Government following comments that were not consistent with the principles of collective responsibility.’

Responding to his sacking tonight, Mr Bristow said: ‘I completely understand the PM’s decision. And it is with regret I leave a job I enjoyed.

‘But I can now talk openly about an issue so many of my constituents care deeply about.

‘I believe I can do this better from the back benches rather than as part of the Government payroll.’

Sir Keir has also supported a ‘humanitarian pause’ but has not backed a ceasefire, despite increasing pressure on him to do so from Labour MPs.



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