Sir Lindsay Hoyle row misses what the REAL issue is - analysis by Olivia Utley

Sir Lindsay Hoyle

Sir Lindsay Hoyle said he was put in a difficult position

Olivia Utley

By Olivia Utley

Published: 22/02/2024

- 14:22

If the Speaker's account is true, then there is far bigger problem for MPs

Sir Lindsay Hoyle’s political career hangs in the balance today. Yesterday, he broke all precedent by accepting a Labour amendment to the SNP’s motion calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Both the SNP and the Tories are furious. The SNP because they feel their debate was hijacked by Labour with the help of the Speaker, and the Tories because they believe Hoyle showed bias towards Labour by getting Starmer out of a politically awkward position.

This all might sound like the worst kind of Westminster bubble semantic nonsense, but it matters – because British parliamentary democracy could well be at risk.

There is no doubt that the Speaker’s decision to call the Labour amendment was unusual; according to parliamentary protocol, an Opposition party (ie. Labour) cannot amend another Opposition party’s motion (ie the SNP). But his motivation for breaking with convention is murkier.

It’s possible, of course, that the Tories are right and that this bastion of bipartisan respectability was simply demonstrating bias towards Labour. But there is another, more sinister, possibility which I find more convincing.

When trying to persuade Hoyle to back Labour’s motion, Keir Starmer told the Speaker that MPs’ safety may be compromised if he refused. Why? Because it would have left Labour MPs with the choice of backing the SNP motion against their leader’s wishes – Starmer whipped his MPs to abstain on a similar SNP motion last November and would have looked weak had he not done the same again – or not voting for a ceasefire in Gaza at all.

We know from experience that disagreeing with Palestinian protestors who want an immediate ceasefire doesn’t end well for MPs.

Late last year, Labour MPs voiced concern about their safety and condemned the “vile abuse” against them and their staff after pro-Palestine protesters targeted their offices in response to Starmer’s bold pro-Israel stance on the Israel-Hamas war. And we know, too, that being an MP is increasingly becoming dangerous work. In the last eight years, two members of Parliament have been murdered.

If Keir Starmer voiced the concerns of his MPs to Lindsay Hoyle, I find it hard to blame Hoyle for taking him seriously.

If Hoyle had ignored him and Labour MPs felt politically obliged not to vote for the SNP’s version of a ceasefire, their safety could well have been compromised and the Speaker could have had blood on his hands.

As Westminster umms and ahhs about the future of Lindsay Hoyle, I can’t help but think that the real story here is that Islamic extremists, in the form of abusive pro-Palestinian protestors, are now dictating how our Parliament operates.

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