Hoyle sparked outrage across the House – it’s no wonder MPs are calling for his resignation - analysis by Olivia Utley

Sir Lindsay Hoyle

Sir Lindsay Hoyle

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Olivia Utley

By Olivia Utley


Published: 21/02/2024

- 16:52

Updated: 21/02/2024

- 17:20

MPs chanted 'bring back Bercow'

Sir Lindsay Hoyle is in trouble. Until a couple of days ago, you’d be hard-pushed to find anyone in Westminster with a bad word to say about the Speaker. When he took over from John Bercow four years ago, almost everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief. This straight-talking, strait-laced Northerner, with his menagerie of loveable pets, promised to be a breath of fresh air – as different as it is possible to be from his lugubrious, foul-tempered, and biased predecessor.

Or so people believed. Today, Speaker Hoyle made the unprecedented decision to select an amendment from the Labour frontbench – which allowed Keir Starmer to get out of a very sticky spot indeed.


To back up: it has long been the SNP’s belief that there should be an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza and last November they put a motion forward in Parliament to that effect. Labour MPs were told by their leader to abstain, as it was Keir Starmer’s belief at the time that Israel had the right to defend itself against aggression from Hamas. It proved to be a challenging day for the Labour leader. Plenty of his pro-Gaza MPs – especially those with a big Muslim contingent in their constituencies – felt that they couldn’t side with the leader on the issue, and 56 broke ranks to vote with the SNP to call for a ceasefire. In the end, 10 shadow ministers were forced to resign.

Today the SNP put forward a similar motion, to be debated today and voted on this evening. That left Starmer stuck between a rock and a hard place. If he told his MPs to abstain again, he risked a rebellion, and would likely haemorrhage a few more shadow ministers. But if he did not tell them to abstain, he risked being accused of going soft on Hamas and flip-flopping on support for Israel.

Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle has sparked fury from the Conservative Party after breaking precedent PA

In the end, he came up with a solution: Labour would table an amendment to the SNP motion, which would essentially water it down a bit by explicitly state support for Israel. It gave him a ladder to climb down: Labour MPs would get a chance to show their constituents that they are concerned over the loss of life in Gaza, but Starmer could still hold his head up and say that he still supported Israel and hadn’t done a screeching U-turn.

But there was an issue. It is parliamentary convention that a motion tabled by an opposition party (ie. the SNP) can’t be amended again by another opposition party (ie. Labour). It was assumed, therefore, that Speaker Hoyle would not allow Labour to push ahead with Starmer’s wily plan.

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Sir Keir Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer launched a plan to amend a motion

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Hoyle, however, proved us all wrong. After a lot of backroom conversations with the Labour leadership, he ended up breaking with all precedent by putting forward the Starmer amendment.

Cue, outrage across the House. Tory MPs wasted no time at all in calling for Hoyle’s resignation, with shouts of “moving the goalposts” and “bring back Bercow” ringing out across the House. One Tory MP proposed a vote of no confidence in the Speaker, and rumour has it that the SNP and the Tories, not natural bedfellows by any means, are plotting other ways to get him removed from office.

John Bercow says he will be denied Parliamentary pass \u2013 ex-Speaker guilty of bullyingJohn Bercow stepped down as Speaker in 2019UK PARLIAMENT

Why did Hoyle side with Labour? Well, there are rumours circulating — strongly denied by Labour — that Keir Starmer promised Hoyle he could keep his job after the election in exchange for making life easy for the Labour today.

Whatever the truth of it, one thing is for certain: Keir Starmer is the luckiest man in Westminster. And the mood in Westminster is as toxic and acrimonious as the bad old Brexit days.