Co-chair of the parliamentary group on British Muslims is sacked from role as ministerial aide for calling for ceasefire in Gaza
Conservative MP for Peterborough, Paul Bristow, the co-chair of the All Parties Parliamentary Group on British Muslims, has lost his job as a Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State in the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, for calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and not backing the UK government’s decision to oppose it.
Comments 'not consistent with the principles of 'collective responsibility'
A No 10 spokesperson announced Tuesday that:
‘Paul Bristow has been asked to leave his post in government following comments that were not consistent with the principles of collective responsibility’
Speaking to the Sun newspaper, Paul Bristow said:
‘It was absolutely the right decision for PM to fire me. I obviously regret being sacked – but I have many 1000’s of constituents who feel very strongly about this issue and feel I can better represent their views from the backbenches than the government payroll’
Peterborough has a very high proportion of Muslim constituents. A 2021 census, showed 12.2% of Peterborough’s population are Muslim. Nationwide, Muslims make up only 6.5% of the population. Bristow will have no doubt been in receipt of a significant post bag of letters demanding the government change its approach to the conflict in Gaza and he had written to the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak on 26th October, saying that ‘we must do everything we can to save life’. The letter read:
Letter to the Prime Minister
Dear Prime Minister,
Last week following the grievous events in Israel and Gaza, I held engagement events, including surgery meetings with many constituents, and met with the Peterborough Joint Mosques Council.
There is a great deal of sorrow and pain. Some of my constituents have been directly affected. It is important that you hear this message. This is my job as a local Member of Parliament.
My constituents and I are deeply grieved by the heart breaking and devastating humanitarian crisis now unfolding in Gaza. Thousands have been killed and more than 1 million now displaced. It is difficult to understand how this makes Israel more secure or indeed makes anything better.
I met with my constituents on the day it emerged that roads near the Rafah crossing were being repaired to ensure an aid convoy could bring in vital supplies. The £20 million of aid pledged by the Government is also an important first step.
Moreover, your call for a ceasefire to allow for humanitarian aid to enter Gaza is also extremely welcome.
A permanent ceasefire would save lives and allow for a continued use column of humanitarian aid can reach people who need it the most.
Access to water, electricity, and fuel, is vital for the Palestinian people. My constituents and I would be grateful for your comments on the actions our Government is taking to ensure that people in Gaze do not face collective punishment for the crimes of Hamas.
There was also concern raised about some of the public discourse, commentary, and reporting of events. Support for a humanitarian response for the Palestinian people does not equate for sympathy for terrorists
I have assured my constituents that this is not the case.
I know Peterborough people will organize events in the near future to raise vital funds for humanitarian support and I look forward to supporting them.
I will continue to engage with my constituents on these matters. I also look forward to continuing to work constructively with the Government and in Parliament to address these humanitarian matters.
The brutal Hamas attacks against innocent civilians are unforgivable. Hostages need to be released. It is challenging to understand how the present strategy of bombing Gaza will lead to the release of hostages.
I shall reiterate at every opportunity that ordinary people are not Hamas and every innocent life in Gaze is precious. We must do everything we can to preserve life.
Bristow’s facebook page carried the following message:
‘I struggle to see how Israel is any safer following thousands of deaths of innocent Palestinians. They should not suffer collective punishment for the crimes of Hamas. We need a ceasefire’
Prominent Muslim peer says 'Bristow is on the right side of history'
Conservative party colleague and fellow executive member of the APPG on British Muslims, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, commented on her twitter post that ‘Bristow was on the right side of history’. She went on to say:
‘A number of Conservative colleagues are deeply disturbed by the government position on Gaza. This treatment reinforces the fear within our ranks of speaking out. Principles in politics should be applauded not punished’
Paul Bristow's dismissal reflects 'a desire to mute voices advocating for humanity and justice'
The Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK (AOHRUK) issued a statement which read:
'AOHRUK notes with dismay the recent developments within Westminster, especially the removal of a ministerial aide who approached the Prime Minister. Their earnest plea was for an enduring cessation of the Israeli aggression in Gaza to protect innocent lives. Their untimely dismissal reflects a troubling trend within the government, suggesting an apparent desire to mute voices advocating for humanity and justice'