Wes Streeting has acknowledged people have been “upset and hurt” by Labour’s initial reaction to the Israel-Hamas war.
The shadow health secretary told the Politics Hub with Sophy Ridge that people wanted his party to be “louder and clearer” about the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza.
There have been tensions in the Labour Party after leader Sir Keir Starmer appeared to suggest in an LBC interview that Israel had the right to cut off water and power to the besieged Gaza Strip following the deadly attack by Hamas on 7 October.
Although the Labour leader has sought to clarify his remarks, there is still anger in the Muslim community.
Asked if voters could be turned away from Labour, Mr Streeting said: “No, I think people have been upset and hurt and wanted us to be louder and clearer on the humanitarian crisis.”
He went on to say Sir Keir “doesn’t think it’s ok cut off power and water” and he misspoke in the interview.
“It was never Keir’s intention to give the impression that we support those measures,” he said.
“In interviews you have a sustained line of questioning – he was answering a previous question and not that one.”
In the interview with LBC’s Nick Ferrari, Sir Keir was asked what a “proportionate” response would look like to the surprise Hamas attacks, which killed at least 1,400 people.
He said that responsibility “lies with Hamas” and that Israel “has the right to defend herself”.
The presenter interjected, asking: “A siege is appropriate? Cutting off power, cutting off water?”
The Labour leader responded: “I think that Israel does have that right. It is an ongoing situation.”
The comments, which he has since rowed back on, prompted resignations among Labour councillors and angered the party’s MPs, even those on the frontbenches as shadow ministers.
Sir Keir sought to cool tensions by visiting a mosque on Sunday and holding a meeting with Muslim MPs today.
But while sources described the meeting as “constructive”, Sir Keir did not back calls for a ceasefire, instead saying Labour supports “humanitarian pauses”.
This position was repeated by Mr Streeting, who said UK politicians need to prioritise supporting Israel in getting hostages back from Gaza “and making sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen again”.
However, he said there is a “responsibility” to minimise the loss of civilian life and get humanitarian aid in to Gaza.
“That is why US secretary of state Antony Blinken, our allies in France and our government are right to call for a humanitarian pause to allow the safe flow of aid through,” he said.
Asked what the difference was between a “humanitarian pause” and a “ceasefire”, he said: “This is the difficulty with the concept of a ceasefire.
“We’re dealing with a terrorist organisation in Hamas.”
Asked if Israel has committed war crimes, as some MPs have suggested, Mr Streeting added: “I’m not qualified to make that judgement.”