UK Left’s Attempt to Vote For Gaza Ceasefire Threatens to Bring Down Speaker in ‘Islamist Threat’ Row

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Crossover attempts by left-wing parties in the UK Parliament to signal their views on Israel’s counter-attack against Hamas ended up with furious exchanges in the house, broken precedent, and the reputation of a once-well-regarded speaker in tatters.

It was the turn of the Scottish Nationalists (SNP) — a reasonably hard-left nationalist party that campaigns to break up the United Kingdom into its constituent parts — to set the business of the house on Tuesday’s opposition day, an opportunity they used to set a motion calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. The SNP acknowledged that, of course, a successful vote would not actually bring about a ceasefire but nevertheless “the optics” of the UK, “one of Israel’s staunchest allies, saying that enough is enough… would be enormous”.

Yet the way the debate was handled, including a convention-busting decision by the Speaker to allow an amendment to the SNP’s motion to be heard from another opposition party — in this case left-wing Labour — saw the day end in anger and farce, and now a rapidly growing motion of no-confidence in the speaker’s position is circulating.

Perhaps most extraordinary of all is the allegation that the Speaker of the House, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, was bounced into allowing a convention-breaking amendment by Labour by the party claiming its members were at risk from “Islamists” if they weren’t able to bring their own motion condemning Israel to table. Conservative MP Danny Kruger articulated that side of the story, writing his belief that Labour had used: “the Islamist threat to change the way our democracy works. This is unacceptable… [Labour] used the threat of violence for party political ends, to wriggle out of a crisis created by Labour’s unbridgeable division over Israel.”

Labour, for their part, deny the allegations they threatened the speaker that they would “bring him down” unless he broke with convention to allow their vote out of turn. A spokesman for the party called the version of events “categorically untrue”. Sir Keir Starmer himself, the party leader, has also “categorically” denied the claim, after he was said to have had a private meeting with Sir Lindsay before the day’s debates yesterday.

Both motions essentially called for the same thing but in different words, but importantly a separate Labour vote would allow its members to vote for a Gaza ceasefire without voting for a motion tabled by a political rival.

Supporters of the SNP’s motion calling for the ceasefire say that by allowing a Labour amendment, which replaced the entire wording of their motion, the speaker deprived the SNP of their opposition day, turning it into a bonus Labour Party day instead. Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle insisted he had done so out of good motives, but had overridden the strong advice of his most senior clerk in doing so, and later apologised.

Hoyle said last night that there had been an “exceptional intensity” in demands by parties “to secure a vote on their own proposition” and that he felt very, very concerned about the security of all Members…  the security of Members, their families and the people involved”. Quite possibly these remarks made in the chamber last night are an oblique reference to Labour’s alleged pressure on him to break the rules, and the alleged emotional blackmail over a claimed Islamist threat to Members of Parliament if they didn’t vote for a Gaza ceasefire.

He told the house in his statement of apology: “I have to say that I regret how it has ended up. It was not my intention. I wanted to ensure that all could express their views and all sides of the House could vote. As it was, in particular, the SNP was ultimately unable to vote on its proposition. I regret with sadness that it has ended up in this position…. I am honest to this House, I am true to this House, and I believe in all Members of this House.

“I have tried to do what I thought was the right thing for all sides of this House. It is regrettable, and I apologise for a decision that did not end up in the place that I wished.”

Speaker Hoyle was seen as a safe and conventional pair of hands, and despite him being a veteran left-wing lawmaker he had strong support from the right of the house too, to repair the damage done to the reputation of the Speaker’s chair after the disastrous tenure of its previous inhabitant, John Bercow, who had a liking for doing things his own way. Bercow was perceived as becoming increasingly partial during the Brexit era and was accused of favouring anti-Brexit politics in the house.

Now, a growing group of members say Hoyle has burnt his own credibility, as they perceive him as having been able to be leant on by his former left-wing colleagues to shape the business of the house to their benefit. At the time of publication, some 59 members of Britain’s House of Commons had signed the motion. This is far from what would be needed to signal to a speaker that his position is untenable, but more yet make clear their minds are not made up and will act according to how Hoyle signals his intent to repair damage done in the coming days.

While controversy reigned inside Parliament, scenes outside were no prettier, as a sizable pro-Palestine protest gathered in Parliament Square. Notably, the antisemitic phrase — which has seen protests forcibly shut down in European cities for being shouted by attendees — “From the river to the sea, Palestina will be free” was projected on the tower of Parliament’s clock.


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