Prime Minister David Cameron lost a key BME ally as Foreign Office Minister Baroness Warsi quits from the government, saying the British government’s policy on the crisis in Gaza is “morally indefensible”.
She wrote on her Twitter feed that she was leaving with “deep regret”.
Lady Warsi, daughter of a Pakistani immigrant, who was previously chairman of the Conservative Party, became the first female Muslim cabinet minister when David Cameron took office in 2010. She grew up in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, and worked as a solicitor before entering politics.
In her resignation letter presented to the Prime Minister Lady Warsi said the British response to the crisis in Gaza will have a long term “detrimental impact on our reputation internationally and domestically”.
She appeared to suggest that Britain’s support for Israel could encourage extremism in the UK. Home Office evidence suggested that Britain’s response to the Gaza crisis risked “becoming a basis for radicalisation [that] could have consequences for us for years to come”, she wrote.
She wrote on Twitter on Tuesday: “With deep regret I have this morning written to the Prime Minister & tendered my resignation. I can no longer support Govt policy on #Gaza.”
She wrote: “For some weeks, in meetings and discussions, I have been open and honest about my views on the conflict in Gaza and response to it.
“My view has been that our policy in relation to the Middle East Peace Process generally but more recently our approach and language during the current crisis in Gaza is morally indefensible, is not in Britain’s national interest and will have a long term detrimental impact on our reputation internationally and domestically.”
She also suggested the Israeli government should face international trial for alleged war crimes, but feared the British Government would not support that position.
She wrote in the letter: “Particularly as the Minister with responsibility for the United Nations, The International Criminal Court and Human Rights, I believe our approach in relation to the current conflict is neither consistent with our values, specifically our commitment to the rule of law and our long history of support for international justice.”
Several backbench Conservative MPs have called on Mr Cameron to take a more robust line with Israel amid concerns its actions in Gaza are “disproportionate”.
Lady Warsi’s resignation letter says government policy is “morally indefensible, is not in Britain’s national interest and will have a long term effect on our reputation internationally and domestically”.
She adds that the decision “has not been easy” but there is “great unease” within the Foreign Office over “the way recent decisions are being made”.
Lady Warsi goes on to say that “I must be able to live with myself for the decisions I took or the decisions I supported. By staying in government at this time I do not feel that I can be sure of that.”
London Mayor Boris Johnson, a fellow Conservative, told LBC Radio he had “great respect” for Lady Warsi, adding: “She has done a great job for us and I hope she will be back as soon as possible.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said it was no “secret” that there were different opinions over Gaza within the government and that Lady Warsi had “strong views” on the subject. Mr Cameron, who is on holiday, has yet to respond.
Conservative MP Nicholas Soames tweeted that Lady Warsi had been “right to leave over a matter of such great importance”.
For Labour, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said most “reasonably minded people across Britain will agree with the sentiments expressed” by Lady Warsi, adding: “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.”
One of five daughters of Pakistani immigrants, Lady Warsi studied law at Leeds University, later working for the Crown Prosecution Service before setting up her own legal practice.