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Keir Starmer Stance On Gaza Ceasefire Is “Untenable”, Says New Union Leader

Keir Starmer delivers a speech on the situation in the Middle East (PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo)

3 min read

The newly elected general secretary of a Labour Party-affiliated trade union has described Keir Starmer’s position on the Gaza ceasefire as “untenable” and called on him to “reflect on the facts”.

Giving her first interview as general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) exclusively to The House magazine, Maryam Eslamdoust said she was “very open to having a cooperative relationship with the Labour Party” but was also “frustrated with Keir’s sometimes very untenable positions on issues”.

The TSSA leader strongly criticised Starmer’s decision not to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. Starmer has been under pressure from members of his party and figures in the Labour movement to shift his position, which currently stops short of calling for a ceasefire in favour of backing only a “humanitarian pause”.

“I was honestly really upset by Keir’s position. I don't understand it. His refusal to call for a ceasefire is really untenable, because brutality brings about more brutality,” Eslamdoust said. 

“As a mother, I am horrified by what's happening in Palestine. So many children have been murdered – how can any human not break down at the idea that hundreds of babies and children are killed every day in Gaza? I think Keir should reflect on the facts.”

Hundreds of Labour councillors have urged Starmer to change course and 47 have resigned over the issue. Imran Hussain was among the 17 shadow ministers who had expressed support for a ceasefire until he resigned from the frontbench on Tuesday evening.

“Over recent weeks, it has become clear that my view on the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza differs substantially from the position you have adopted," Hussain said in a resignation letter to Starmer.

A third of Labour MPs have backed a ceasefire in Gaza, and it is thought Hussain's decision to quit could put pressure on other frontbenchers to do the same. Despite the dissent, Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson confirmed today that the leadership stands by its stance.

In a speech on the Middle East last week, Starmer explained why he did not believe a ceasefire was the correct position.

“A ceasefire always freezes any conflict in the state where it currently lies. And as we speak, that would leave Hamas with the infrastructure and the capability to carry out the sort of attack we saw on October the 7th,” Starmer said.

On 7 October, Hamas terrorists entered Israeli territory, where they killed over 1,400 people and took 200 hostage. Israel has since carried out strikes on Gaza, which have killed more than 10,000 according to the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health.

Starmer’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the criticisms of the TSSA leader.

In her interview with The House, Eslamdoust also ruled out any mergers with other unions. Talks with general union GMB took place before being “paused” in March, but the new general secretary announced that they would not resume. “A merger is not on the cards,” she said.

Eslamdoust said she was determined to represent “a fresh start” at TSSA. An independent investigation earlier this year found there was “sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying” within the trade union that had been enabled by the leadership via “wilful blindness, power hoarding and poor practices”.

The full interview with Maryam Eslamdoust will be published in the next edition of The House magazine on 20 November.

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