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Faith minister quits over Gaza

Tue 05 Aug 2014
By Antony Bushfield

Baroness Warsi has resigned from the cabinet after tweeting she could "no longer support Govt policy on Gaza".

The Minister for Faith, Baroness Warsi, has resigned from the government over its policy on the conflict in the Middle East.

She confirmed her decision on Twitter:

With deep regret I have this morning written to the Prime Minister & tendered my resignation. I can no longer support Govt policy on #Gaza

@SayeedaWarsi

Lady Warsi was the first female Muslim member of the Cabinet when the coalition came to power four years ago.

She's been the Minister for Faith and Communities and Senior Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs since 4 September 2012.

Speaking to Premier last month she said an important part of her role was raising the profile of faith in society: "One of the first speeches that I gave in government was that this government would do God.

"For me I fundamentally believe that faith is the basis of good work and faith communities can be used to be part of the solution rather than to be painted as part of the problem which we tragically see too often."

She wrote to the Prime Minister David Cameron to inform him of her decision.

She said: "Our approach and language during the current crisis in Gaza is morally indefensible.

"[It] is not in Britain's national interest and will have a long term detrimental impact on our reputation internationally and domestically."

Conservative Christian MP Alistair Burt spoke to Premier's News Hour: "I understand her point, I don't share them entirely but I do understand her point.

"That's why it's important for British foreign policy to be very clear.

"What the United Kingdom has got to demonstrate is that it can support the existence of the state of Israel but you're not anti-Israeli if you find points of Israel policy with which you disagree."

Lady Warsi has made her feelings on Gaza known before.

On 21 July, she tweeted: "The killing of innocent civilians must stop. Need immediate ceasefire in #Gaza. Leadership required on both sides to stop this suffering."

In another tweet she said: "Can people stop trying to justify the killing of children. Whatever our politics there can never be justification, surely only regret #Gaza."

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The Prime Minister regrets that Baroness Warsi has decided to stand down and is grateful for the excellent work that she has done both as a Minister and in Opposition.

"Our policy has always been consistently clear - the situation in Gaza is intolerable and we've urged both sides to agree to an immediate and unconditional ceasefire."

Douglas Alexander MP, Labour's Shadow Foreign Secretary, said: "Most reasonably minded people across Britain will agree with the sentiments expressed by Baroness Warsi in her resignation statement today.

"It is a sad reflection of the Prime Minister's misjudgement of the crisis in Gaza that this capable Minister has felt the need to leave the Government.

"Labour has consistently opposed the Israeli incursion into Gaza and has repeatedly urged the Prime Minister to speak up and to speak out against the horrific loss of life witnessed in recent weeks, but he has so far failed to do so.

"We welcome the decision by Israel to withdraw its forces, but both sides must now fully respect the ceasefire to prevent further suffering and loss of life.

"In the longer term, both sides must also act to address the underlying causes of this conflict, and it must be recognised that Palestinian statehood."

Hear more from Conservative Christian MP Alistair Burt here:

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