Warsi resigns in protest at Gaza stance

08 August 2014

MARC GASCOIGNE/LAMBETH PALACE

Sharing: Baroness Warsi with Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, co-Chair of the Christian Muslime Forum, at an Iftar meal hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace, last month

Sharing: Baroness Warsi with Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, co-Chair of the Christian Muslime Forum, at an Iftar meal hosted by the Archbishop of Cante...

BARONESS WARSI resigned as Faith and Communities Minister on Tuesday in protest at the Government's policy on Gaza, which she described as "morally indefensible".

In her resignation letter to the Prime Minister, she wrote that the UK's position on the Middle East was not in the country's national interest, or consistent with the rule of law. The letter also warned that Britain's response to the war in Gaza could become a "basis for radicalisation".

"I always said that long after life in politics I must be able to live with myself for the decisions I took, " she wrote. "By staying in Government at this time I do not feel I can be sure of that."

In response, Mr Cameron said that he was sorry that she had resigned, although he understood her "strength of feeling", and he described the situation in Gaza as "intolerable". He said that British policy was to support Israel's right to defend itself, but also to call for a two-state solution to the decades-long conflict.

"We have consistently made clear our grave concerns about the heavy toll of civilian casualties and have called on Israel to exercise restraint," he said.

In office, Lady Warsi had focused on persecution against religious minorities around the world, including Christians. She had previously been Chairman of the Conservative Party, but was moved in 2012 to her most recent appointment, which was at both the Foreign Office and the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The Chancellor, George Osborne, said that Lady Warsi's resignation was "disappointing and frankly unnecessary". But the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, said that she had been right to resign, and that the Government was wrong to not condemn Israel's bombardment of Gaza.

In an interview after her resignation, Lady Warsi called for an arms embargo against Israel. She told The Huffington Post: "It appals me that the British government continues to allow the sale of weapons to a country, Israel, that has killed almost 2000 people, including hundreds of kids, in the past four weeks alone."

Her portfolio as Minister for Faith has been added to that of the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, whom Lady Warsi praised in her letter.

"Eric Pickles has supported me tirelessly in our work on combating hate crime, challenging anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and the pioneering work of celebrating faith in the public sphere," she wrote.

In a speech last year, Mr Pickles criticised "the intolerance of aggressive secularism". His speech referred to Christians' having been told not to wear a cross or rosary at work, and to legal action against prayers at the start of council meetings (News, 18 January 2013).

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