Keir Starmer Suspends Labour MP Andy McDonald After Speech At Pro-Palestinian Rally

Labour MP for Middlesbrough Andy McDonald.
Labour MP for Middlesbrough Andy McDonald.

Labour MP for Middlesbrough Andy McDonald.

Labour MP Andy McDonald has been kicked out of the parliamentary party after making “deeply offensive” comments at a pro-Palestinian rally.

The Middlesbrough MP has had the party whip removed for using the phrase “between the river and the sea” on Saturday. The suspension means he will sit in parliament as an independent MP.

Home secretary Suella Braverman has previously branded the slogan anti-Semitic and claimed that it is “widely understood” to call for the destruction of Israel. Pro-Palestinian protesters, who have used the phrase as a chant during recent demonstrations in London, contest this definition.

In a video shared by McDonald of his speech at the rally, he said: “We will not rest until we have justice. Until all people, Israelis and Palestinians between the river and the sea can live in peaceful liberty.”

A Labour spokesperson said: “The comments made by Andy McDonald at the weekend were deeply offensive, particularly at a time of rising anti-Semitism which has left Jewish people fearful for their safety.

“The chief whip has suspended the Labour whip from Andy McDonald, pending an investigation.”

McDonald later tweeted: “I am saddened to have received the news from the opposition chief whip that I have been placed under ’precautionary suspension; for a period of three months, which is reviewable pending an investigation from the Labour Party

“Throughout the past two days, there have been a number of misrepresentations of my words in the media.

“In my speech on Saturday, I said the following: ‘Until all people, Israelis and Palestinians, between the river and the sea, can live in peaceful liberty.’

“These words should not be construed in any other way than they were intended, namely as a heart felt plea for an end to killings in Israel, Gaza, and the occupied West Bank, and for all peoples in the region to live in freedom without the threat of violence.”

It’s the latest sign of internal party unrest faced by Labour leader Keir Starmer over the Israel-Hamas war, with a growing revolt over his refusal to call for a ceasefire in Gaza posing his biggest challenge since assuming the post.

McDonald’s suspension comes as Conservative MP Paul Bristow was sacked from his junior government job for calling for a permanent ceasefire, which contrasts to the government policy of “humanitarian pauses”.