Today, the consensus between the two main parties on Israel and Hamas came to an end. 

Until now, Labour has stuck with the Conservative approach, backing Israel and resisting calls for a ceasefire.

Politics Hub: Westminster gears up for contentious vote on Gaza

The Labour leadership decided standing with Israel, whatever the pain it meant amongst some sections of its supporters, was the right moral and political option.

At one point last year, Sir Keir Starmer even said calls for an immediate ceasefire would embolden Hamas.

But now Labour argues that circumstances have changed, and the party does back an immediate ceasefire.

I was first told Labour was considering a change to its position in the second week of December, but it never arrived.

Instead, it only turned up today, 24 hours before the SNP was due to force a vote on the issue in which Labour MPs were threatening to rebel and go through the nationalist voting lobbies.

So the revised position had two goals – to try and sooth some anger in parts of the Labour movement over Sir Keir’s decision to stand with Israel as it invaded Gaza, and to deal with the tactical challenge posed by Wednesday’s votes and stop Labour MPs siding with the Scottish opposition.

We will only know in 24 hours whether Labour have succeeded on either front. At the time of writing, both goals look hard to secure.

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‘Thousands more people will die’

Labour MPs likely to abstain on SNP motion

Labour’s new position, to call for an immediate ceasefire, provoked questions which even David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, struggled to fully explain.

Asked whether it was credible to ask Israel not to use force to get back hostages, he would only repeat that an immediate humanitarian ceasefire was vital.

Later, he said that hostages have only been released so far during the last ceasefire – but is Labour against all Israeli use of force to take them back in future?

Asked if it was credible to ask Hamas, a terrorist organisation, to observe a ceasefire, he said Labour wanted the hostages released.

Frontbenchers will get more of these sorts of questions in the coming days.

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SNP motion is ‘about Palestinians’

Secondly, it is unclear what will happen in tomorrow’s SNP votes. It appears that Labour has walked into a trap, preparing its own mission statement – an amendment to be voted on – only to find the Tories have done the same, and only that and the SNP option are likely to be put to a vote.

Labour MPs tomorrow will be offered the chance to either support the Tories – who reject a permanent ceasefire until all hostages are released – or the SNP position, which calls for an immediate one.

Faced with that prospect, the leadership is likely to order Labour MPs to abstain, but will some end up backing the SNP position anyway?

We will find out in 24 hours. Being ordered to sit on your hands is tricky on an issue like this, however.

Again this has been a saga of difficult decisions being delayed then facing a tricky birth – a similar story to the one we saw with the £28 billion U-turn and the eventual abandonment of Azhar Ali as Labour candidate in Rochdale.

Some Labour folk are complaining at the coverage this has generated. This is what enhanced scrutiny in election year feels like, however.

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