Keir Starmer still has a “grip” on Labour despite a growing revolt over his refusal to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, one of his close allies has said.
But Peter Kyle, the shadow science minister, refused to say whether the Labour leader would sack members of his frontbench team who defied him.
Starmer has only called for a humanitarian pause in the war, stopping short of demanding a full ceasefire.
On Sunday morning 13 members of his own frontbench team had so far called for a ceasefire.
Speaking to the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme, Kyle attempted to play down the significance of the divisions.
“We are united in sympathy in what is unfolding there and impacting civilians,” he said.
“People are calling for a ceasefire. We are calling for a pause. So we can dance on the head of a pin.”
Ceasefires tend to be long-term and designed to deescalate a conflict and pave the way for a political solution.
While humanitarian pauses can last just hours to enable aid to be delivered and are often confined to a small area rather than the entire conflict zone.
Kyle said: “Keir has been listening to people with both perspectives in the party and has turned it into a set of policy announcements and calls that would make a tangible difference on the ground.
“Keir is doing so, leading in a way which has strength, it has absolutely firm policies which are implementable and in line with the international community right now.
“That shows he has a grip on our party, yes we are having a debate and Keir is engaged in that debate. Don’t ever doubt his leadership ability.”
Asked if Starmer would sack shadow ministers who publicly differed with him on policy, Kyle said: “What he is going to do, I suspect, is to continue to engage with them.”
Members of a political party’s fronbench team are usually expected to abide by collective responsibility and not voice opposition to the leader’s policies.
In July last year Starmer removed Labour MP Sam Tarry as a shadow transport minister for making up policy “on the hoof”.
“That can’t be tolerated in any organisation because we have got collective responsibility,” the Labour leader said at the time.
On October 7 Hamas attacked Israel from Gaza, killing 1,400 people and taking around 230 hostages.
In response, Israel has launched an intensive bombing campaign in Gaza and a ground invasion is expected.