Andy McDonald: Senior Labour MP suspended over 'deeply offensive' comments at pro-Palestine rally

A senior Labour MP has been suspended from the parliamentary party following "'deeply offensive" comments he made at a pro-Palestine rally over the weekend.

Andy McDonald held various shadow ministerial roles under Jeremy Corbyn, and served under Sir Keir Starmer's leadership before resigning from the front bench in 2021 over a disagreement in policy with the leadership.

Over the weekend, he attended a pro-Palestine rally, in which he said: "We won't rest until we have justice. Until all people, Israelis and Palestinians, between the river and the sea, can live in peaceful liberty."

He went on to shout "free Palestine".

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Downing Street said it was "not acceptable" for people to chant "from the river to the sea" - a phrase referring to the land between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea - as it is "deeply offensive" to many.

While Mr McDonald did not immediately face consequences for his words, he was later suspended on Monday evening.

Sir Keir and his party have been far from united on their response to the conflict in the Middle East, with the leader calling for "humanitarian pauses" but not a ceasefire, while other Labour MPs - including shadow ministers - have called for a stop to the fighting.

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."

The chant "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" has been heard during recent demonstrations.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has previously said the slogan is antisemitic, adding that she thinks it is "widely understood" to call for the destruction of Israel.

Pro-Palestine campaigners contest this definition.

Mr McDonald said his words "words should not be construed in any other way than they were intended, namely as a heartfelt plea for an end to the 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".

"I will be happy to explain these views to the investigation when it convenes, and trust that the whip will be restored. In the meantime, for the sake of humanity, I hope and pray that we see an end to the war in Gaza, and steps are taken towards a lasting peace."

Mr McDonald's suspension came shortly after Tory MP Paul Bristow was sacked from his government job for calling for a permanent ceasefire - as the government policy is the same "humanitarian pauses" as Sir Keir is advocating.

John McDonnell, who served in Mr Corbyn's shadow cabinet with Mr McDonald, said the suspension "isn't just unjust it is absolute nonsense".

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He claimed that Mr McDonald "turned a slogan some are concerned about into a peace plan".

Kate Dove, the co-chair of the left-wing campaign group Momentum, claimed the suspension as "appalling and opportunistic".