Keir Starmer paying price for disrespecting Labour heavyweights, says Ed Balls

Keir Starmer says ceasefire in Gaza isn’t ‘correct position’

Sir Keir Starmer, under pressure over his refusal to back calls for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, is paying the price for “disrespecting” two powerful figures within his own party, former cabinet minister Ed Balls has claimed.

At least 31 councillors up and down Britain have quit in protest at Sir Keir’s stance in the wake of the Hamas terror attacks on Israel on October 7, which resulted in at least 1,400 deaths. Israel has responded by sending troops into Gaza, with fierce fighting reported between its troops and Hamas fighters.

Similarly, several members of his frontbench team including Rosena Allin-Khan have broken ranks – as have Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham, Labour Mayors of London and Manchester respectively.

Mr Balls, speaking to co-host and former Chancellor George Osborne on his Political Currency Apple podcast, made his remarks as the pair considered the challenges the rapidly evolving situation in the Middle East posed for the Labour leadership.

Specifically, Mr Balls suggested one of the key points was that Sir Keir would be unwise to take the support of powerful regional mayors for granted.

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He explained: “One of the learnings he needs to put in place now is to understand the role that those Mayors play.”

Mr Balls pointed to a speech made by Sir Keir this week in which, in contrast to Mr Burnham, Mr Khan and others, he set out his reasons for not backing a ceasefire, which he said would simply “freeze the conflict”, with no guarantees that Hamas would not take the opportunity to regroup in the interim,

Mr Balls added: “I think he will look back and reflect upon this. If you remember the Uxbridge by election, the issue of ULEZ the emissions charge for old cars in London was controversial.

“Kier Starmer and the people around him went out afterwards and had a real go publicly at the Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan for his ULEZ policy.

“I think it was at the lobby drinks at Christmas Kier Starmer, made a joke mocking Andy Burnham and the reality is that you reap what you’re saying.

“And if you don’t understand the standing and power these mayors have and if you think that they are people you can choose to be disrespectful to, then at the point when you need them as Kier Starmer found out this week, they might not be there.”

Sir Keir was likely to be the next Prime Minister and Mr Balls voiced his support – but added: “People are always positioning.

“And with Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan, maybe there’s some positioning going on.”

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Asked by Mr Osborne whether Sir Keir would have a difficult time holding his party together, Mr Balls added: “It seemed a long time ago since that united Labour conference.

“I thought the line that he set out in his speech was his week was the right line, absolutely. And he needs discipline now, in his front bench to take that forward.”

The problem, Mr Balls stressed, was the “the divisions are already there”.

He continued: “We talked about the mayors who’ve been out disagreeing with that line, Labour mayors. There are a large number of front benchers who have said the opposite of Keir Starmer over the last 10-15 days.

“And if you’re slow, and already people have established their positions, that makes it harder.

“And there will be lots and lots of Labour MPs, including the front bench with large Muslim populations in their seats who are very worried politically as well as people who feel morally and emotionally about it.

“And I do think Kier Starmer has now got a very difficult situation.”

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