Keir Starmer
Keir Starmer has said he "will have to make it work" with Donald Trump if he is reinstated as US President. AFP / ANDY BUCHANAN

Keir Starmer has been hit with his most recent test of his authority as MPs prepare to vote on a second parliamentary motion that calls for an "immediate" ceasefire in Gaza next week.

The SNP motion on the Middle East crisis comes after the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza reported that Israel's assault on the territory has killed more than 28,600 people.

In the four months since Israel started its relentless bombardment of the besieged enclave, the Labour Leader has repeatedly dismissed the idea of a permanent ceasefire and has cut ties with the Labour MPs who disagree.

The previous result, which saw the left-wing party decline to vote on a similar motion in November, triggered a huge split amongst MPs and led to 10 frontbench resignations.

The motion to vote last year resulted in Starmer being hit with his biggest rebellion as Party Leader. The left-wing leader saw 56 MPs vote for the SNP motion, including eight shadow ministers, while Labour abstained.

Despite initially calling for a "humanitarian pause", the Labour Party has shifted to supporting a "sustainable ceasefire" that would see an influx of aid and evacuations from the Strip.

However, the party has stopped short of backing an immediate halt to the fighting.

The second vote comes shortly after the Labour Leader was forced to deal with two Labour Party candidates after they were exposed for making derogatory comments about Israel in a recording.

Both Azhar Ali, a Labour Party Rochdale candidate, and Graham Jones, a Labour Party Hyndburn candidate, were suspended for their remarks.

Many MPs in the left-wing party have already spoken out against Starmer's leadership, noting that he should have acted faster with Ali's suspension over the weekend.

After finding that the Labour Leader reportedly spent five hours deciding whether to suspend Ali on Monday, a long time after he found out about a second set of remarks made by the candidate for Rochdale, party members have warned that his delayed decision-making could be harming the party.

"We should have acted straight away, that was completely obvious," one senior Labour official said.

"The only silver lining is that hopefully, we're learning these lessons now, not in the middle of an election campaign," they added.

Speaking ahead of next week's vote, one Labour MP told reporters: "This is going to reopen all those wounds which we thought we had got past."

Another Labour MP said that they "cannot imagine" how Starmer could continue to ask his MPs to abstain on an immediate ceasefire vote since Labour's position has substantially shifted in recent months.

In a post on X last week, Labour Leader Starmer wrote: "The fighting must stop now. We need a sustainable ceasefire."

As the death toll continues to mount in Palestinian territory, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered Israel to press ahead with its ground offensive in Rafah.

After rejecting the US call for a two-state solution, Netanyahu warned: "We will not settle for anything short of an absolute victory."

There are more than one million refugees sheltering in Rafah, a city that shares a border crossing with Egypt.

After ordering Palestinian civilians to move to the south of the Strip and continuing its complete siege of Khan Younis, where an estimated 425,000 internally displaced Palestinians remain trapped, Israel has since vowed to move its ground operations to Rafah.

Calling on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour Leader Starmer to back an immediate ceasefire, Stephen Flynn, the SNP Westminster Leader, warned that "the time for equivocating is over".

"Over 28,000 Palestinian children and civilians have already been killed – and vast swathes of Gaza have been obliterated, including hospitals and family homes," Flynn added.

The SNP Westminster Leader went on to reiterate that the UK government "cannot just sit on its hands and do nothing".

"International pressure is paramount if an immediate ceasefire is to happen – and the UK has a moral duty to do its part," he said.

Flynn again referenced the catastrophic number of fatalities amongst Palestinian civilians, saying: "With every day Sunak and Starmer equivocate more children are killed. Enough is enough. This has to end – and it has to end now."