Rishi Sunak sacks senior Tory aide for calling for Gaza ceasefire

Rishi Sunak has sacked a senior Tory from his government job as a ministerial aide for calling breaking ranks and calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Paul Bristow, a parliamentary private secretary (PPS) at the science department, had called for a “permanent” ceasefire in Gaza in a letter to Mr Sunak.

The MP for Peterborough said it “would save lives and allow for a continued column of humanitarian aid [to] reach the people who need it the most”.

The response from No 10 was swift – sacking the senior Tory for breaking “collective responsibility”, as Mr Sunak continues to insist that Israel has the right to take military action against Hamas.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “Paul Bristow has been asked to leave his post in government following comments that were not consistent with the principles of collective responsibility.”

It allows the Tories to make a sharp contrast with the row within Labour ranks, with at least 13 frontbenchers openly challenging Sir Keir Starmer’s refusal to back a ceasefire without any disciplinary action.

Sir Keir will not sack shadow ministers rebelling over the party’s refusal to back a ceasefire in Gaza, frontbencher Peter Kyle indicated on Sunday.

The shadow science secretary told the BBC that the Labour leader would “continue engaging” with frontbenchers and backbenchers – but Sir Keir is not changing his stance.

Sir Keir has backed Mr Sunak in calling for a “humanitarian pause” in the fighting to allow for aid to be delivered to civilians – but continues to support Israel’s right to defend itself as it steps up its ground invasion.

However, left-wing Labour MP Andy McDonald has had the party whip suspended after using the phrase “between the river and the sea” at a rally this weekend.

Senior Tory MP Paul Bristow (PA)
Senior Tory MP Paul Bristow (PA)

Some pro-Palestinian protesters have chanted “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” during recent demonstrations in London, despite controversy around the slogan’s meaning.

A Labour spokesperson said: “The comments made by Andy McDonald at the weekend were deeply offensive, particularly at a time of rising antisemitism which has left Jewish people fearful for their safety. The chief whip has suspended the Labour whip from Andy McDonald, pending an investigation.”

Meanwhile, Labour’s Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, who has called for a ceasefire, has warned Mr Starmer it is “simply not possible” to have a clear party position quickly on the Gaza crisis.

Writing for The Independent, the senior Labour figure issued a plea not to brand as “disloyal” those who have defied the leadership on the issue.

Senior Tory MP Alicia Kearns has also differed from the government’s position – said she supported the “humanitarian truce” voted for in the UN General Assembly.

The chair of parliament’s foreign affairs select committee said it would allow for aid in and hostages to get out. But the Sunak government abstained during the vote – criticising the motion’s failure to include unequivocal condemnation of Hamas’s terrorist attacks.

Meanwhile, Suella Braverman has condemned the pro-Palestine rallies held across the UK in recent weeks as “hate marches”.

The cabinet minister said the protests had featured “a large number of bad actors” behaving in “utterly odious” way. Ms Braverman also suggested she wanted the Metropolitan Police and other forces should do more to crack down on the scourge of antisemitism.