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Sir Keir Starmer is braced for a spate of resignations or sackings on Wednesday, as some of the Labour leader’s frontbenchers consider disobeying him and backing a call for a Gaza ceasefire. 

Following a debate on the King’s Speech, the Scottish National Party has tabled an amendment calling for an immediate ceasefire. If selected by the House of Commons Speaker, a vote will follow.

That poses a dilemma for close to 20 Labour frontbenchers who have publicly called for a ceasefire, in defiance of Starmer’s backing for a temporary “humanitarian pause”.

Labour MPs have been told by party whips that they will be ordered to abstain on the SNP amendment. They face being sacked from any front bench job if they support it.

Imran Hussain was forced to resign as shadow minister for employment rights last week after he defied the leadership and signed a parliamentary motion calling for a ceasefire. 

Labour has drawn up its own, more nuanced amendment that is intended to appeal to all sides of the party. A spokesperson has said it “reflects our concerns about what we’ve seen on the ground in the last fortnight”.

But Starmer is braced for a rebellion by frontbenchers as pressure mounts on them from activists and constituents to take a stronger position against the Israeli bombardments which have so far cost more than 11,000 lives in Gaza, according to the health ministry there. “I’d be surprised if we don’t have a clutch of resignations,” said one shadow minister. 

The Labour leader is keen to demonstrate party discipline during a week in which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was forced to sack his home secretary and undertake a major cabinet reshuffle. 

Starmer has argued that a ceasefire would leave Hamas with the infrastructure and capability to carry out more terrorist attacks of the sort which killed at least 1,400 Israelis on October 7.  

One Labour MP said Starmer risked falling behind other leaders as several European states, including Spain and Ireland, urged a ceasefire. He anticipated the US would soon join them.

“You have to ask who is advising him. Because at some point Biden will inevitably call for a ceasefire and we will be behind the curve,” the MP said. 

He added that colleagues were facing a backlash from left-wingers and Muslim voters in their constituencies: “There is a lot of antagonism. These communities have traditionally supported Labour for decades but MPs are now seeing protests outside their offices and [are] having to increase their security.”

Ian Lavery, former party chair under Jeremy Corbyn, said that while his constituency of Wansbeck had no mosques, he’d “had hundreds of emails, every one of them demanding a ceasefire, and they are opposed to Labour’s backing for a humanitarian pause. They see it as giving people aid and food and then bombing them again.”

Labour has already lost 46 councillors in the past few weeks and is increasingly concerned about grassroots efforts to stand candidates against the party in next year’s general election. 

Imtiaz Patel, a pro-Palestinian protester, told the FT he had approached one sitting Labour MP with an offer to raise £200,000 — through crowdfunding — to stand down and run again as an independent in a by-election. 

Although the MP turned down the offer, it illustrates wider attempts by pro-Palestinian activists to organise against the Labour party. 

“Labour MPs in seats with an extra-large Muslim population should be getting extra worried . . . we are keeping a close eye on who is speaking out and calling for a ceasefire and who isn’t,” said Patel. 

Another person familiar with grassroots organising efforts said: “The Labour party has decided that it can lose the Muslim vote . . . we’re exploring what to do in the next election cycle.”

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