Protesters march on Starmer’s HQ over stance on Gaza ceasefire
Demonstration in the Labour leader’s constituency follows week of party tension
Sammy Gecsoyler & Michael Savage
Hundreds of people marched through Keir Starmer’s constituency and protested outside his north London office yesterday over the Labour leader’s refusal to call for a ceasefire. The peaceful protest in Camden was one of more than 100 demonstrations across the country yesterday, as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign opted to organise smaller gatherings rather than another mass march in London. In Camden, the crowd briefly chanted “Keir Starmer is a wasteman”, and some held placards featuring the Labour leader as hundreds marched through the drizzle calling for a ceasefire. Cars beeped and cafe workers stepped outside to clap and chant their support as the demonstration advanced up the busy high street. It comes after a week of heightened tensions within the party when some MPs contacted police for help in bolstering security, following the vote on Wednesday over a ceasefire. Fiftysix of the 198 Labour MPs opposed the party leadership. Jess Phillips, the shadow minister for domestic violence, was among 10 frontbenchers who either resigned or were fired. Since then, a series of Labour MPs have had their constituency offices targeted by protesters, including Rushanara Ali, Wes Streeting, Jonathan Ashworth and Liz Kendall. The office of Jo Stevens, the shadow Welsh secretary, was vandalised. Tan Dhesi, a shadow minister, said he had faced “death threats and abuse”, while Apsana Begum, the east London MP who has backed a ceasefire, said she had received Islamophobic abuse. Siobhain McDonagh, chair of the women’s parliamentary Labour party, said some MPs had “reasonable concerns about their safety” and has called a meeting for this week. Starmer has faced sustained criticism for his handling of the humanitarian crisis that has unfolded in Gaza after sustained bombardment from Israeli forces since the 7 October attack by Hamas. In a statement after the vote, Starmer said he regretted that party colleagues had not backed his position, but later said he was more focused on the plight of people in Gaza than splits within Labour. Among those protesting outside Starmer’s office were people who had previously voted for him. “I’m here because I’m so upset, disgusted and horrified by our politicians because they don’t deem a ceasefire to be the most urgent thing,” said 52-year-old Claudia Manchanda. She joined the demonstration despite having had chemotherapy two days ago. “I want to be on the right side of history. I don’t want to be complicit,” she said. Jacquie Woods, 59, who’s retired, said: “I’m a Labour supporter. I’ve voted Labour all my life. Starmer is complicit in the genocide that is going on in Palestine … There’s children dying every single day in Palestine and the world is not listening.” Fakrul Islam, 53, attended with his daughter who did not want to be named. She said: “We want a ceasefire. People are dying and we are against it. The children did nothing wrong, they are not the terrorists.” Elsewhere, hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters defied police orders by staging a series of sit-ins at main UK train stations. Despite extra patrols and orders prohibiting protests, crowds targeted Manchester Victoria station and Leeds as well as London Bridge and Waterloo in the capital. The Waterloo protest comprised about 100 people sitting in the middle of the station, chanting for a ceasefire in Gaza. British Transport Police were on hand to warn that “anyone breaching the section 14a order in place is committing an offence and will be arrested”. Officers eventually removed them from the station at about 4pm with at least two carried from the scene. Earlier, footage on social media showed a small crowd sitting inside Manchester’s Victoria station with another group of about 25 doing the same in Leeds.