Sir Keir Starmer has come under fresh pressure over his stance on the conflict in Gaza after a shadow minister became the first frontbencher to quit in protest at his leader’s refusal to back a ceasefire.
Imran Hussain, MP for Bradford East, said he was quitting his role as shadow minister for the New Deal for Working People to be able to “strongly advocate” for a ceasefire.
The Labour leader has been grappling to maintain discipline in his top team over the Gaza conflict.
At least 16 shadow ministers have either called for a ceasefire or shared others’ calls on social media while around 30 councillors have resigned.
Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said Mr Hussain had “reached his own decision” on the matter.
She maintained that the party leadership does not see a ceasefire as the right move amid the escalating conflict, which has seen more than 10,000 Palestinians killed.
“The difficulty with calls for a ceasefire is that it risks freezing the conflict in time, and also allowing Hamas to regroup and perpetrate further atrocities which they said, given the chance, they would absolutely do time and again.”
She told Times Radio: “I would urge colleagues to always carefully choose their words where it comes to fast-moving international events, and where it isn’t always clear or apparent very quickly what is happening on the ground.”
In his letter to Sir Keir, Mr Hussain said he was “deeply troubled” by the Labour leader’s interview on LBC in which he appeared to suggest that the Israeli government had a right to withhold water and power from citizens in Gaza.
“It is with a heavy heart that I am writing to tender my resignation as shadow minister for the New Deal for Working People after eight years on the Labour Party frontbench,” Mr Hussain said.
He said he had been “proud” to work alongside Sir Keir and his deputy, Angela Rayner, in developing a plan for employment rights but could not “in all good conscience” push for a cessation of hostilities while remaining on the frontbench.
Mr Hussain said: “It has become clear that my view on the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza differs substantially from the position you have adopted.”
Sir Keir has insisted collective responsibility remains important but has so far declined to say whether frontbenchers would face being sacked for breaking ranks to urge an end to fighting.
A Labour Party spokesman said: “Labour fully understands calls for a ceasefire. Everybody wants to see an end to the shocking images we are seeing in Gaza. We need to see all hostages released and aid getting to those most in need.
“But a ceasefire now will only freeze this conflict and would leave hostages in Gaza and Hamas with the infrastructure and capability to carry out the sort of attack we saw on October 7.
“International law must be followed at all times and innocent civilians must be protected. Labour is calling for humanitarian pauses in the fighting.
“This is the best and most realistic way to address the humanitarian emergency in Gaza and is a position shared by our major allies.”
Mr Hussain has been on Labour’s frontbench for almost eight years, serving under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership as shadow international development minister in 2016.