The carnage being perpetrated by Israel in Gaza may not be a hot button issue in the Arab countries, even though the slaughter is taking place at their doorstep. And the Global South, barring South Africa, is also indifferent to it. But it has deeply troubled the United Kingdom, dividing it on political and ethno-religious lines.

If the war drags on, as it well might, it could affect the chances of major British political parties, be it the Conservatives, Labour or the Scottish National Party, in the next parliamentary elections due in January 2025.

The Conservative government of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is blatantly pro-Israel, and that has alienated a sizeable section of the population across ethnic boundaries, including the Muslims. And the Muslims are a critical element in many parliamentary constituencies.

A YouGov survey done in February showed that two thirds of Britons (66%) wanted Israel to be prepared to enter into peace negotiations with Hamas, up five points since November.

Only 13% thought Israel should continue to take military action (down six points). There had likewise been a five point decrease in the number of people who said that Israel’s attack on Gaza was justified, down to 24%.

However, in Parliament, only a minority of MPs (93 out of 650) supported Palestine, and these were mainly from Labour and the Scottish National Party (SNP).

The Labour party, which is much more dependent on the minority vote, is even more affected than the Conservatives. The 2024 Survation survey found that British Muslims’ identification with Labour as their natural choice had fallen by 49 points, from 72% in 2021 to 29% this year. On top of this, 85% of British Muslims believed that the political position of parties on the Israel-Gaza war would be important in influencing their vote at the polls.

There is no data on British Hindus, but given their overall support for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak they are, in all probability, pro-Israel.

The Scottish National Party (SNP), which is fighting for the independence of Scotland, feels that its efforts to highlight the genocide in Gaza in the House of Commons were wilfully thwarted by the Labour Party in collusion with the Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle.

The SNP’s Deputy Leader, Keith Brown, went to the extent of saying that the party should look at withdrawing MPs from Westminster after the debacle over its parliamentary motion on Gaza.

The SNP had submitted a motion in the House of Commons to discuss its call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. But Speaker Lindsay Hoyle admitted another watered-down motion submitted by the Labour party and called for a vote on it, thereby pushing the SNP resolution under the carpet.

Labour’s stance on Gaza has been equivocal, calling only for a “humanitarian pause” to reach aid to the population. In an effort to prevent a split in its ranks, Labour leaders had prevailed upon the Speaker to give the Labour’s motion primacy.

When the Speaker implemented Labour’s plan, angry SNP MPs called for his resignation as he had parliamentary practice. Lindsay was forced to make a grovelling apology to the SNP and to say that he would allow a fresh debate on its motion under Emergency Rules. But he reneged on it.

It was reported that the SNP was considering responding with a campaign of “disengagement” from day-to-day parliamentary activities. This could involve SNP MPs not turning up at select committee meetings on which the SNP had a seat. But eventually this was abandoned as Scotland would have no voice in the Parliament.

The SNP’s identification with the Gazans stemmed from the fact the Scots feel marginalised by UK’s rulers sitting in London. According to Deputy Leader Keith Brown, there is a “tradition whereby Westminster sidelines, marginalises or suppresses Scotland.”

In November 2023, Labour and Opposition leader, Sir Keir Starmer, had refused to back calls for a ceasefire in Gaza. At one stage he had even said that water and energy should be stopped from going into Gaza. That led to resignations of some leaders in the party and there was also a demand that he should quit.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, as well as 16 Labour frontbenchers and a third of the parliamentary party, called for a ceasefire in Gaza. Others, including Labour’s leader in Scotland, Anas Sarwar, had accused Starmer of having no empathy for the plight of the Gazans subjected to incessant shelling and aerial bombardment and denied food and medical care.

Such dissidence was the last thing that Starmer should want because the party under him was getting way ahead of Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives in opinion polls. The UK seemed to be crying out for change after 13 years of Tory rule.

But Starmer, is still of the view that a ceasefire in Gaza would simply freeze the status quo and that Hamas’s slaughter of 1,400 people on October 7, 2023, and the group’s stated intention to strike Israel again and again, would make a ceasefire quite untenable. Israel must be allowed to defend itself, he feels.

However, in line with America’s policy, Starmer has called for “humanitarian pauses” to allow aid to get into Gaza. He also backs a Two-State solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

In the recent by-election in Rochdale near Manchester, an anti-Starmer, Labour rebel, George Galloway, emerged as the winner. Galloway represents the extreme left-wing element among Labour supporters. He has been a furious critic of the “supine failures of the Labour Party, particularly in the Middle East, from the Iraq war to the ongoing conflict in Gaza.” Galloway describes the Labour Party and the Conservatives as "two cheeks of the same backside".

Last November, there were frequent weekend marches, sit-ins at train stations and protests at weapons factories, sparked by the harrowing events unfolding in Gaza.

The conflict also awakened communal ghosts in British politics. Lee Anderson, the blunt Conservative MP, said “Islamists” had “got control” of Sadiq Khan, London’s Mayor. Anderson was trafficking in the kind of anti-Muslim propaganda that flared two decades ago after London was hit by terrorist attacks by Islamist militants, one report said.

In November 2023, the then Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, called for a ban on pro-Palestine protests. She had also repeatedly called pro-Palestine protests "hate marches". But Braverman's push to quash the protests hit a legal roadblock as her move clashed head-on with the principles upheld by Sir Mark Rowley, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, who supported the legal right to protest.

With the Conservative Party already nose diving in popularity, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sacked Braverman. But Sunak also went on to announce a US$ 53 million security plan for MPs and other officials who feared “hate attacks” over the Gaza war.

The Sunak government is unabashedly pro-Israel because UK's economic ties with it have deepened post-Brexit. They span technology, investment, research, and security sectors. The British government has pursued a free-trade agreement (FTA) with Israel.

However, a change in Europe may bring about a change in thinking among British politicians. French President Emmanuel Macron has called for a ceasefire, perhaps to please the large Muslim population in France. Germany, however, is a different kettle of fish. Feeling guilty about the Holocaust, it feels obliged to support Israel to the hilt.

With the war in Gaza showing no sign of ending any time soon, the Gaza issue could affect the chances of all major British parties in the January 2025 parliamentary elections.