Keir Starmer says Palestinian state is an ‘undeniable right’ as part of Gaza peace process – UK politics live

Keir Starmer has told the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, that recognition of the state of Palestine as part of a Middle East peace process is an “undeniable right”. Labour’s election manifesto committed the party to recognising a Palestinian state as part of a process that results in a two-state solution alongside Israel. Labour suffered significant election setbacks in areas with large Muslim populations on Friday amid discontent over its position on Israel’s war in Gaza. Starmer, the UK’s prime minister, has faced criticism for only gradually shifting towards calling for a ceasefire.

In his talks with the Palestinian leader this morning, No 10 said Starmer was “pleased to be able to speak to President Abbas so early in his tenure, given the pressing issues in the region, ongoing suffering, and devastating loss of life in Gaza”. “Discussing the importance of reform, and ensuring international legitimacy for Palestine, the prime minister said that his longstanding policy on recognition to contribute to a peace process had not changed, and it was the undeniable right of Palestinians,” No 10 said.

The commitment to recognising a Palestinian state “as part of a peace process” echoes comments made in January by David Cameron, the former foreign secretary. It is likely to irritate Israel. Netanyahu reacted angrily when Ireland, Spain and Norway all officially recognised Palestine in May, describing the move as a “reward for terrorism”.

Here are some more conversations Starmer has had with world leaders today:

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In a readout of the call with Netanyahu, Downing Street said: “The leaders discussed the importance of regional security in the Middle East, and the prime minister said he was committed to continuing the UK and Israel’s vital cooperation to deter malign threats. The prime minister said the situation on the northern border of Israel was very concerning, and it was crucial all parties acted with caution.”“Turning to the conflict in Gaza, the prime minister reiterated his condolences for the tragic loss of life following the October attacks. He then set out the clear and urgent need for a ceasefire, the return of hostages and an immediate increase in the volume of humanitarian aid reaching civilians. He added that it was also important to ensure the long-term conditions for a two-state solution were in place, including ensuring the Palestinian Authority had the financial means to operate effectively.”

South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa. A No 10 spokesperson said: “The prime minister spoke to South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa, this morning. The president began by congratulating the prime minister on his election victory and said he welcomed this early opportunity to speak. The leaders reflected on the significance of South Africa’s state visit in 2022, noting that it was the first official state visit of His Majesty King Charles III’s reign.” “Turning to the strong bond between the UK and South Africa, the prime minister said he looked forward to strengthening and progressing the relationship between the two countries. The prime minister and president agreed to continue working together on climate change, economic growth and opportunity and equality ahead of the G20 in South Africa next year.”

The United Arab Emirates’ president sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed al-Nahyan. Downing Street said the prime minister “thanked sheikh Bin Zayed for his kind words on his election victory, and congratulated sheikh Bin Zayed on the success of the COP28 Summit in the UAE last year”. “The leaders agreed to deepen cooperation on defence, cybersecurity, trade and investment ties between the UK and UAE,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.

Since becoming the UK’s prime minister on Friday, Starmer has had phone calls with many other world leaders, including the US president, Joe Biden, Australia’s prime minister, Anthony Albanese, India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, French president Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Olaf Scholz and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

The new foreign secretary, David Lammy, has written an article in the Local Europe, outlining the government’s foreign policy vision. He said Britain must be a “good neighbour” to the EU as it targets a “closer partnership” with the bloc. Labour has ruled out rejoining the EU, the single market or the customs union. Keir Starmer, the Labour party leader and newly elected prime minister, has said instead that his party could achieve better trading arrangements with the EU in certain industries, such as in research and development and on security.

Lammy used his first trip abroad as the UK’s top diplomat to make clear to his counterparts in Germany, Poland and Sweden about the chance to “seize the opportunity for a reset” and work “even more closely together to tackle shared challenges”. He identified support for Ukraine and climate change, along with holidays and student exchanges, as areas where this can take place.

Writing in the Local Europe, Lammy said:

As the new British foreign secretary, with our prime minister Keir Starmer, this government will reset relations with Europe as a reliable partner, a dependable ally and a good neighbour.

That is why I am travelling immediately to some of our key European partners. Sitting down with Annalena Baerbock, Radek Sikorski and Tobias Billström, my message will be simple: let us seize the opportunity for a reset, working even more closely together to tackle shared challenges.

The most immediate of these challenges, of course, is Ukraine. We will stand by the brave people of Ukraine, as they defend their freedom against Vladimir Putin’s new form of fascism. British military, economic, political and diplomatic support for Ukraine will remain ironclad.

But we are always stronger when we work with others. Germany, Poland and Sweden are all also staunch supporters of Ukraine. European security will be this government’s foreign and defence priority.

Russia’s barbaric invasion has made clear the need for us to do more to strengthen our own defences. Next week, the prime minister, the defence secretary and I will all travel to Washington for the Nato Summit.

Philip Banfield, chair of the BMA UK Council, told Times Radio thejunior doctors’ pay dispute could be resolved within a week if the government is willing to act quickly.

Medics in training across the NHS went on strike for five full days from 27 June. NHS England said 61,989 appointments, procedures and operations were postponed as a result of the latest round of industrial action by junior doctors.

Junior doctors have been pursuing a 35% pay rise to act as “full pay restoration” for the 26.2% fall in the value of their incomes they have seen since 2008-09.

Wes Streeting, the new health secretary, has said previously he would not meet the 35%, saying that if he gave in to the demand then “any trade union worth their salt” would come back the following year with the same request.

Banfield said the BMA are seeking a 26% rise which is “not necessarily” linked to an agreement over conditions.

Speaking to Kate McCann on Times Radio, he said:

This Labour government is straight away taking everyone at their word. It needs a government to negotiate in good faith, the previous government did not. If the Labour government negotiates in good faith, there need to be no more strikes.

Kate McCann Q: “Do you think that you are ready to have a deal sorted within the week? Because that’s clearly what Labour’s pushing for?”

Philip Banfield A: “If the question is ‘it possible to have a deal within a week?’ The answer is yes.”

Keir Starmer has told the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, that recognition of the state of Palestine as part of a Middle East peace process is an “undeniable right”. Labour’s election manifesto committed the party to recognising a Palestinian state as part of a process that results in a two-state solution alongside Israel. Labour suffered significant election setbacks in areas with large Muslim populations on Friday amid discontent over its position on Israel’s war in Gaza. Starmer, the UK’s prime minister, has faced criticism for only gradually shifting towards calling for a ceasefire.

In his talks with the Palestinian leader this morning, No 10 said Starmer was “pleased to be able to speak to President Abbas so early in his tenure, given the pressing issues in the region, ongoing suffering, and devastating loss of life in Gaza”. “Discussing the importance of reform, and ensuring international legitimacy for Palestine, the prime minister said that his longstanding policy on recognition to contribute to a peace process had not changed, and it was the undeniable right of Palestinians,” No 10 said.

The commitment to recognising a Palestinian state “as part of a peace process” echoes comments made in January by David Cameron, the former foreign secretary. It is likely to irritate Israel. Netanyahu reacted angrily when Ireland, Spain and Norway all officially recognised Palestine in May, describing the move as a “reward for terrorism”.

Here are some more conversations Starmer has had with world leaders today:

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In a readout of the call with Netanyahu, Downing Street said: “The leaders discussed the importance of regional security in the Middle East, and the prime minister said he was committed to continuing the UK and Israel’s vital cooperation to deter malign threats. The prime minister said the situation on the northern border of Israel was very concerning, and it was crucial all parties acted with caution.”“Turning to the conflict in Gaza, the prime minister reiterated his condolences for the tragic loss of life following the October attacks. He then set out the clear and urgent need for a ceasefire, the return of hostages and an immediate increase in the volume of humanitarian aid reaching civilians. He added that it was also important to ensure the long-term conditions for a two-state solution were in place, including ensuring the Palestinian Authority had the financial means to operate effectively.”

South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa. A No 10 spokesperson said: “The prime minister spoke to South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa, this morning. The president began by congratulating the prime minister on his election victory and said he welcomed this early opportunity to speak. The leaders reflected on the significance of South Africa’s state visit in 2022, noting that it was the first official state visit of His Majesty King Charles III’s reign.” “Turning to the strong bond between the UK and South Africa, the prime minister said he looked forward to strengthening and progressing the relationship between the two countries. The prime minister and president agreed to continue working together on climate change, economic growth and opportunity and equality ahead of the G20 in South Africa next year.”

The United Arab Emirates’ president sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed al-Nahyan. Downing Street said the prime minister “thanked sheikh Bin Zayed for his kind words on his election victory, and congratulated sheikh Bin Zayed on the success of the COP28 Summit in the UAE last year”. “The leaders agreed to deepen cooperation on defence, cybersecurity, trade and investment ties between the UK and UAE,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.

Since becoming the UK’s prime minister on Friday, Starmer has had phone calls with many other world leaders, including the US president, Joe Biden, Australia’s prime minister, Anthony Albanese, India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, French president Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Olaf Scholz and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Former Conservative MP Marcus Fysh has said the Conservative party is no longer a “viable entity” as Tory MPs are unwilling (or not inclined ideologically) to do what is needed to become electable again.

Fysh was Yeovil’s MP since 2015 but lost heavily to Adam Dance from the Liberal Democrats last week in the general election. He argues that the Conservatives need to occupy the centre-right in British politics to have broad electoral appeal, but says the current crop of MPs want to be on the centre-left.

Labour’s emphatic general election victory will mean the most dramatic transformation in the make-up of the House of Commons in decades, with Keir Starmer’s parliamentary party having almost doubled in size, and added 211 more members to its benches, while the Tories have vacated 252 seats and are down to 121 (you can read more about the new composition of the Commons here).

Speaking to Times Radio this morning, Fysh said:

I just don’t think it is a viable entity any more. I think with the current composition – or the new composition of the party in parliament – I don’t think there is any chance that it will do the things that are required to actually be electable again.

So, whether it’s making the most of actually being outside the EU, I don’t think the current crop of MPs will ever want to do that, and I don’t think it is possible for a centre right party that doesn’t want to do that ever to be elected in the UK again.

So I just think everyone’s wasting their time with it, and I am just calling it how I see it really. If it was my business, I would wind it up.

I just don’t think it works any more. I don’t think there is political space for where the current crop of MPs want to be, which is on the centre left, SDP side of politics, the old SDP. They are centre left politicians, and that is where Labour is.

Times Radio journalist Calum Macdonald then asked the former Tory MP if the Conservatives needed to move to the right – closer to Reform – to try to win back voters.

Fysh replied:

No I am saying that it needs to occupy that space, which is the centre right, and the centre in a sensible way that is going to resonate with the population and speak human to them, and be human about it.

And that is not what reform is. And I don’t think that that is capable of doing that. But I don’t think the current conservative MPs want to be there- that isn’t who they are. So it isn’t a Conservative party in that sense, and so it should no longer exist.

Patrick Wintour is diplomatic editor for the Guardian

The new foreign secretary, David Lammy, sent out a warning to China not to become embroiled in Russia’s attempt to undermine Ukraine.

Warning of the dangers that face the west from authoritarian states, Lammy, standing alongside Poland’s foreign minister, Radislaw Sikorski, said:

I am concerned when I see Iranian drones turning up in Ukraine. I am concerned when I see shells from North Korea being used here on European soil.

And of course, I’m concerned with the partnership that I see Russia brokering across those authoritarian states. I think that China should be very careful about deepening those partnerships over the coming weeks and months.

He was speaking after holding two hours of talks with Sikorski at the foreign minister’s country retreat near the Polish city of Bydgoszcz.

On Gaza, the foreign secretary said:

We have been calling for a ceasefire now since the end of last year. All of us hope that in the days that follow, the Biden plan can be adopted by Hamas, and of course by the Israeli government, and we can see that ceasefire. We want to see those hostages out.

And you cannot look away from the amount of people that have lost their life in Gaza, many of them women and children, and not want to see that loss of life alleviated.

There is an absolute need for aid to get in unfettered in the way that we have been calling for in the international community.

Praising Lammy for Labour’s landslide victory, Sikorski said the recently elected Polish coalition government was also the product of the public being tired with enthusiasts on the nationalist side of politics.

We have some more quotes from the Northern Ireland secretary, Hilary Benn, who has made his first visit to Belfast in his new role (see earlier post at 13.20 for Benn’s comments on the prospect of an Irish reunification poll).

He said the Stormont powersharing executive – which has only the most minimal powers over borrowing and taxation – will have to look at raising its own revenue to help deal with public sector budget pressures, according to the PA news agency. Most of what Stormont spends is from the so-called block grant which comes from Westminster, but Stormont parties have complained of the negative impact of “Tory austerity” and are therefore hoping for more money from a Labour government. This hope may be misplaced though, with the Institute for Fiscal Studies saying: “Labour’s additional day-to-day spending commitments are essentially trivial.”

Speaking to the media on Sunday, Benn noted that public spending in Northern Ireland is higher than in England (the region receives about £124 a head for every £100 a head spent in England).

He told reporters:

Those (funding) discussions about the future will continue and there will be additional money when the main estimates are published which I anticipate will be in the near future.

But I would also say this. There is a question for the Executive about how the money is spent. All public bodies, governments, institutions have to look at what they’ve got coming in, what’s going out and how they can make the most effective use of that.

Historically, government in Northern Ireland has not been as good as it might be in income generation. That is something the executive is going to have to look at.

On Bristol’s harbourside on Friday morning, Carla Denyer was still on the go. The Green party co-leader, newly elected as MP for Bristol Central, had not slept since the count but was happy to pose for selfies with well-wishers and chat to her new constituents. “I’m elated,” she said, as people waved at her.

Denyer is still taking in the scale of the Green party’s achievements. Labour’s Thangam Debbonaire, the shadow culture minister who had been expected to take up a seat in the Labour cabinet, had a majority of more than 28,000 in Bristol West in 2019, but lost the new Bristol Central seat to Denyer by nearly 10,000 votes.

Three more Green MPs were elected across the UK. “This is an historic breakthrough,” Denyer said. “We have quadrupled our representation in the House of Commons overnight. We have got a historic vote share across the country, a historic number of second places, and I expect a historic number of deposits saved as well.”

Denyer believes the four Green MPs can put pressure on Starmer. “We’ll be pushing the Labour government to be bolder on climate, on the housing crisis, or properly funding public services,” she said. “We’ll be using all of the levers that we have available as opposition MPs, whether that’s through ministerial questions, motions, amendments, the committees, and just moving the debate on.” One of her first priorities will be getting Labour to lift the two-child benefit cap: “That policy was brought in by the Conservatives, and yet, shockingly, the Labour party have ruled out [scrapping it], even though it holds 250,000 children in poverty.”

Some experts see further Green gains as a distinct possibility. The party gained nearly 2m votes overall and came second in 40 constituencies. Prof James Dennison, who has researched the ebbs and flows of Green support across Europe, believes the UK Green party could pick up many more voters under a Starmer government, which will be largely reliant on growth to fund struggling public services. “The Greens are the only party – apart from Reform – who are well placed to take those anti-incumbency votes,” he said.

Denyer agrees. “There is a potential to grow our parliamentary party in the next general election,” she said. “Especially if Labour continue to backslide on policies, as they have been before they even got into power.”

You can read the full story by my colleague, Tom Wall, here:

As Andrew Sparrow mentioned in an earlier post (see 08.23), Keir Starmer is expected in Scotland this afternoon. It will be the first leg of the prime minister’s tour of the UK’s nations over the coming days to speak with the leaders of the devolved administrations.

The Guardian’s Scotland editor, Severin Carrell, has been told that at about 4:30pm Starmer and Labour’s Scotland leader, Anas Sarwar, “will make remarks” at a Labour event in central Edinburgh. They are expected to take some questions from journalists afterwards. Sarwar is expected by some to become Scotland’s first minister after the 2026 Holyrood elections.

At around 5pm, Starmer is then expected to meet Scottish first minister John Swinney at Bute House, after the SNP was swept aside by a resurgent Labour across central and western Scotland in the general election.

A bright red sofa and a piano were among the items removed from Downing Street on Sunday morning. Keir Starmer’s family (his wife, Victoria, and their two teenage children) will relocate from their north London house to either 10 or 11 Downing Street. Starmer has reportedly not moved into his new address yet.

Richard Tice, the newly elected Reform MP for Boston and Skegness, has said his party will become “the real opposition” and has the policies – such as on immigration and law and order – that “will save this country”. Tice, who is also the party’s chairman, overturned a 25,000 Conservative majority to win the seat for Reform.

Reform’s four other MPs are James McMurdock (who narrowly won the South Basildon and East Thurrock constituency in the general election), Nigel Farage (the party’s leader, who won in Clacton), Lee Anderson (the former Tory party chairman who won Ashfield) and Rupert Lowe (the former Southampton chairman who won in Great Yarmouth).

Speaking to GB News’ Camilla Tominey, Tice said:

I think it was a real shock to the establishment despite everything. The lies, the spin, the mud, the abuse that was thrown at us in the last ten days or so of the campaign.

This is just the beginning. As Nigel [Farage] said, it’s a bridgehead. Five MPs now with James McMurdock joining us on Friday afternoon after I think the third counting of his votes. It’s a great start, and we build from here.

I think genuinely, we do become the real opposition. The Tory party is completely split asunder. They’re sort of so far apart from each other it’s not a cohesive force, whereas we clearly are.

We’ve got the policies that I think actually will save this country, whether it’s on immigration, whether it’s on growth, whether it’s on law and order.

I don’t think anybody’s really got any confidence in the Labour party’s ability to solve those issues.

Tice went on to say that the party needs to “professionalise” in the future, after dozens of candidates were dropped by the party in recent months after they were accused of making racist and other offensive comments in the past.

He echoed Farage’s comments about targeting Labour voters, particularly in some of their industrial “heartlands”. Tice also revealed he would work with the Green party and Liberal Democrats to advocate for proportional representation.

Hilary Benn, the newly appointed Northern Ireland secretary, has been in Belfast today. He was asked by Sky News’ senior Ireland correspondent, David Belvins, about the prospect of a referendum on Irish unity. Benn ruled this out, saying the conditions for such a poll have not been met. His comments echo those of the new prime minister, Keir Starmer, who said last year that areferendum on Irish unification was “not even on the horizon”.

Benn was quoted as saying:

The Belfast Good Friday agreement was very carefully considered, debated, discussed, drafted and signed. And the condition – the criteria if you would like – for a border poll is very clear.

It’s when the secretary of state, whoever he or she is, comes to the view that in the event that a border poll was held, the people of Northern Ireland would vote for a united Ireland. There is no evidence that this condition has been met.

His comments come after Sinn Féin became Northern Ireland’s largest party in Westminster after voters turned against the Democratic Unionist party. The party is likely to use its electoral victory to make the case for a referendum on Irish reunification by 2030.

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Updated: Juli 7, 2024 — 3:41 pm

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