POLITICS

Hugo Swire, Tory Foreign Office Minister, 'Considered Quitting Over Gaza'

06/08/2014 20:12 BST | Updated 06/08/2014 20:59 BST

Conservative Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire considered resigning from the government over Britain's position on the conflict in Gaza, according to reports.

On Monday Baroness Warsi dramatically quit the government, citing David Cameron's "morally indefensible" decision not to condemn Israel's military operation against Hamas in which hundreds of civilians have died.

In an interview with Channel 4 News, the now former Foreign Office minister also claimed that she had spoken with an unnamed minister who "talked about resignation". Warsi also said another senior Tory backbencher had been in "tears" over the conflict.

On Wednesday evening Ch4 News claimed "senior Conservatives" had named the minister as Swire. In a statement issued to the channel, he said: "I want to be very clear I have absolutely no intention of resigning whatsoever."

The suggestion Swire considered quitting alongside Warsi will add to the pressure on the prime minister, who is currently on holiday in Portgual with his family.

Today Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems backed calls for an arms embargo while several Labour MPs are demanding parliament be recalled, despite the present cease-fire.

There is also considerable disquiet on the Conservative benches about the government's position.

Sarah Wollaston, the chair of the Commons health committee, accused Israel of showing an "utter disregard for the value of civilian lives". And Margot James, the ministerial aide to Commons leader and former foreign secretary William Hague, said the scale of civilian casualties "cannot be justified". Former justice minister Crispin Blunt said Warsi's resignation had been "brave and principled", while veteran MP Nicholas Soames urged Cameron to "note and learn" from her decision to quit.

SEE ALSO: UN Chief Ban Ki-Moon Says 'Cycle Of Suffering' In Gaza 'Shames The World'

Boris Johnson, who caught Westminster slightly off-guard today by finally confirming he would be seeking election to the Commons in 2015, has also been more outspoken than the prime minister. The London mayor described Israel's actions as "disproportionate" as well as "ugly" and "tragic". The word "disproportionate", which carries great weight, is one Cameron has avoided using.

Speaking to The Huffington Post in her first interview following her resignation on Tuesday, Warsi urged Cameron to impose an arms embargo on Israel. The demand was swiftly backed by Alex Salmond and the Scottish administration.

Today Andrew Mitchell, Cameron's former Conservative international development secretary, also lent his support to the idea. "I would have thought there is a strong case for trying to ensure that weapons getting into this conflict are minimised as much as possible," he told the BBC. "I think it's right an embargo should be considered."

An embargo also has the support of Clegg and the Lib Dems half of the coalition. "This outrageous spectacle of these three UN schools being hit by Israeli military action. That's why I believe that the export licences should now be suspended," Clegg said.

Downing Street has said it is conducting a review into Britain's arms exports to Israel and pointed out that no new licences have been issued for use by the Israeli military since its most recent operations in Gaza began in July.

UN secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has lambasted the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying that the “cycle of suffering” has "shocked and shamed the world".