Two words

On Wednesday MPs were due to debate and vote upon an SNP motion calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza describing the wanton slaughter of Palestinians by the misnamed Israeli ‘Defence’ Forces as collective punishment, which constitutes a war crime under international law.

Starmer refused to support the SNP motion because of those two words. The SNP published its motion last week. Labour said they were talking to the SNP about it which was untrue. SNP whip Owen Thompson said that he had had no contact from Labour about finding an amended wording which Starmer could allow Labour MPs to support. SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn also wrote to Starmer suggesting they talk about the issue. However Starmer didn’t bother to reply.

Instead Starmer put forward a wrecking amendment to the SNP motion, removing any reference to collective punishment and reiterating Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas. Under normal circumstances and following convention the Speaker would not have selected Starmer’s amendment for debate on what was supposed to be an SNP Opposition Day debate. By doing so he pulled the rug from under the SNP and turned an SNP Opposition Day debate into a Labour Opposition day debate.

Hoyle made this decision against the advice of the chief clerk to the Commons, Tom Goldsmith, who warned that it risked the SNP motion not being debated at all. Goldsmith told Hoyle that his decision had no precedent in the last 25 years and that it would depart from “long-established convention”.

Keir Starmer was desperate to avoid a debate on the SNP motion because there were reports that a significant number of his MPs would rebel and vote for the SNP motion, including a number of his front bench team. That was an embarrassment that Starmer was determined to sidestep, and so he met with Hoyle privately and pressured him to make a ruling that was very much a party political favour although both Hoyle and Starmer deny that was the case. However that is very much the impression that was created. Hoyle was a Labour MP for two decades before resigning from his party, as convention dictates, upon being elected Speaker in 2019.

SNP MP Stewart McDonald said Hoyle was guilty of doing his old party a “nakedly political favour”. The Speaker is supposed to be politically neutral, but Hoyle has now put his neutrality in doubt, calling into question his suitability for the post. Westminster is rife with rumours that Starmer threatened to replace Hoyle as Speaker after the next general election if he did not do Starmer this favour. Naturally Starmer has denied that there is any, truth to these rumours, which we can file under, “Well he would say that wouldn’t he?”

Hoyle is now claiming that he made the decision out of concern for the safety of MPs who could find themselves facing protests because they had failed to vote for the SNP motion. This excuse merely raises another question, is the business of Parliament to be dictated by mob rule?

Notwithstanding his subsequent apology, Hoyle did not make a “mistake”. He made a considered decision to take a Labour Amendment, against all the conventions of the House of Commons , despite having been told by the Clerks that doing so would risk the SNP Motion being debated. He did this at the behest of the Labour Party. It’s that simple.

The SNP is rightly furious with Hoyle, he has created the impression that he favours a party that’s going to keep him in his job and is willing to treat the SNP, the third largest party in the Commons, with utter contempt in order to curry favour with the man who is likely to become the next Prime Minister.

Starmer has also behaved appallingly, trashing the rules of the Commons in order to get himself out of a spot of local difficulty and then brazenly gaslighting us all about it. It’s shameful and underhanded, proving that the leader of the Labour party cares more about his standing in opinion polls than he does about the lives of the Palestinians of Gaza. In doing so Starmer is proving that he is every bit as much a duplicitous and authoritarian moral vacuum as the Tories he promises to be a ‘change’ from. He will be no change at all.

Labour has rightfully called out Tories for undermining democracy at Westminster, yet Keir Starmer has today admitted that he pressured the Speaker of the House of Commons into changing a long-established procedure merely in order to get him out of a hole he had dug for himself with his refusal to countenance any criticism of Israel’s actions in Gaza. He is merely disputing the details of what was said and by whom.

There will now be no Commons debate highlighting the dreadful suffering being endured by the people of Gaza, all because Keir Starmer cannot countenance any criticism of the indiscriminate killing and the destruction of homes and civilian infrastructure being carried out by a far right Israeli government which scarcely bothers to disguise its genocidal intent. All the civilian deaths, all the killed and maimed children, all the bombed out homes and hospitals and schools, they’re just a series of unfortunate oopsies as far as Starmer is concerned.

The SNP walked out of the Chamber in disgust and frustration with Hoyle’s decision. The odds are already heavily stacked against Scotland in that dysfunctional stew of corruption with the majority of Scotland’s MPs being routinely voted down by the much larger number of MPs from the rest of the UK, even on issues of central concern to Scotland specifically. Yet with this decision Starmer and Hoyle have demonstrated their willingness to ensure that the voices of Scotland’s representatives won’t even get a hearing.

Stephen Flynn has declared the SNP no longer have confidence in Hoyle as more and more MPs sign a motion of no confidence in the Speaker.

The entire sordid and dismal episode is a farce.If it wasn’t obvious before why we need an independent Scotland, this travesty has made it crystal clear. The UK Parliament had the opportunity to do the right thing, instead self-serving Westminster reminded us how utterly broken it is, and all because Keir Starmer didn’t like two words, ‘collective punishment’. Here’s two other words Starmer won’t like, ‘Labour duplicity’, ‘Westminster dysfunction,’ or ‘Labour = Tory’


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