It comes as the party seeks to play down talk of divisions after Sir Keir lost 10 members of his front bench in a major revolt over the Israel-Hamas war. A total of 56 Labour MPs voted for an SNP amendment to the King’s Speech backing a ceasefire.
Sir Keir has warned that a full-scale ceasefire would “embolden” Hamas, and has instead called for the introduction of humanitarian “pauses” in the fighting.
In an interview with ITV News during a trip to Scotland, he said: “When you’ve got hostages being held at gunpoint, when you’ve got children dying in Gaza, my focus is on them, not on the various different voices in the Labour Party, because that is where the real concern is.”
Jess Phillips, the shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, was among 10 frontbenchers who defied the leader’s order not to vote for the amendment, resigning from Sir Keir’s top team.
But shadow defence secretary John Healey said he “regrets” losing his frontbench colleagues, emphasising that they would all work to put Sir Keir in Downing Street.
Asked whether rebelling would rule them out of a ministerial post in a Labour government, Mr Healey said: “That’s for well down the track.”
Mr Healey insisted there was a “deeper unity” in the Labour Party than the rebellion appeared to indicate.
He said he understood why backbenchers wanted to “respond to their constituents and call for an immediate ceasefire”. But he insisted that the “vast majority” back what he described as the most practical step, of calling for humanitarian pauses to allow aid into Gaza and get the hostages out.
Mr Healey argued that the frontbenchers who broke ranks to call for a ceasefire still want to see Sir Keir become prime minister. “I know they all wrestled with this difficult decision, and I know they all have said that they 100 per cent want Keir Starmer in Downing Street and will work together to secure a Labour government,” he told Times Radio.
“This is a difficult issue that we faced last night, but Keir Starmer was right, when it comes to a parliamentary vote, to be firm – to require collective responsibility and discipline.”
Other former shadow ministers now on the back benches include Yasmin Qureshi, Afzal Khan, Paula Barker, Rachel Hopkins, Sarah Owen, Naz Shah and Andy Slaughter.
Parliamentary private secretaries Dan Carden and Mary Foy, who had been working with deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner, joined them in stepping down.
MPs voted 293 to 125, with a majority of 168, to reject the SNP’s amendment calling for “all parties to agree to an immediate ceasefire” in Gaza.