Tearing up the Rule Book in the Theatre of the Absurd

So, in the end the Speaker, Lyndsay Hoyle, who’s is supposed to be scrupulously impartial, ripped up the rule book and let the Labour Party put forward their own amendment.

This was supposed to be the SNPs Opposition Day (they get 3 days a month, the Labour Party get 17). They should have had the opportunity to put forward their own motion and the house would then vote on supporting theirs or the Conservatives. Labour would have the opportunity to abstain if they wanted, but this would allow the Conservatives motion to pass.

Labour were tied in knots and had spent the last few days switching around and around, terrified of two things: one, the SNP motion would gather huge support by Labour MPs, and two that they would try and threaten these MPs and would face another great rebellion as they has two months before.

The actions of Hoyle showed the extent to which the establishment cannot allow the words of the SNP amendment to be heard.

It’s pretty clear that Labour blackmailed Lyndsay Hoyle into violating Westminster protocol so they could protect Israel from the charge of collective punishment. The Speaker allowed himself to create precedent in naked party political interest and should resign or be forced to stand down. Newsnight’s Political Editor Nichola Watt tweeted: “Senior Labour figures tell me Commons Speaker was left in no doubt that Labour would bring him down after the general election unless he called Labour’s Gaza amendment.”
But as the socialist activist Jonathon Shafi put it, this is not just about tribal party politics: “The context for events in Westminster is not reducible to “party political games.” This is a political crisis animated by the incoherent and callus response of the Lab/Tory leadership re Gaza over a period of months – and the existence of a mass movement of opposition to it.”
This is true, the Labour party have been dragged to this position by a political movement operating inside and outside electoral politics. Having said that it was significant enough of a departure from accepted protocol to warrant this rebuke by the Clerk of the House saying “Tom Goldsmith, clerk of the House, says Speaker’s decision “represents a departure from the long-established convention for dealing with such amendments on Opposition days, governed by Standing Order No. 31”:

Next the SNP walked out after this contribution from Stephen Flynn:

The BBC tries to make sense of the omnishambles …


The SNP have been treated with utter contempt.

The people of Gaza deserve better than this utter shambles.

Comments (52)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published.

  1. Paul Martin says:

    The message from Westminster, is that as an institution it does not recognise the SNP as a legitimate political party. That the SNP should not be allowed to bring forward and air it’s own principled position on Gaza, despite the fact it also represents a huge, if not the majority position, in Scotland at large on this most grievous of matters. Given that, what are the SNP hoping to achieve – strategically or in the furtherance of independence – through another term of representation down there.? Just more of the same treatment coming their way; ignored, side-lined, and held in contempt.

  2. John Learmonth says:

    Sorry. But what on earth has the situation in Gaza have to do with the SNP,?
    Did Hamas have any input into the 2014 vote for independence?

    1. Drew Anderson says:

      Two things:

      – What are the SNP allowed, In your opinion, to be concerned about?

      – If the SNP aren’t allowed to have an opinion on the situation in Gaza; who is?

    2. Julian Smith says:

      The U.K. had a great deal to do with the establishment of the state of Israel after WW2. Like it or not, the U.K. still has a great deal to do with the Middle East. The U.K. cannot simply ignore what is going there. While we are part of the U.K., we elect MPs to the House of Commons on a supposedly equal footing to MPs from the whole of the U.K. to hold to account the U.K. Government of whatever Party. A major humanitarian crisis in Gaza is an inescapable concern for the U.K. Parliament. What possible justification could there be for MPs, and that includes SNP MPs, not doing all they can to bring to a peaceful conclusion the terrible conflict there?

    3. 240222 says:

      ‘But what on earth has the situation in Gaza have to do with the SNP?’

      It offered a political opportunity to embarrass Labour and advance the cause of Independence.

      1. Drew Anderson says:

        Labour were already split on the issue; even some Tories were ready to vote for the SNP motion. This notion that the motion was aimed solely at sowing division within Labour is pure, unadulterated nonsense.

        In any case, why should the SNP (uniquely) tailor their motions to the desires of another opposition party? Are Labour bound by such notions; were the LibDems and before them the Liberals, when they were the 3rd largest party?

        1. 240222 says:

          Yep; and the Labour Party proposed its amendment to the SNP’s motion in order to overcome those internal differences and maintain party unity. And it worked.

          1. Paddy Farrington says:

            A premature conclusion. This is not over.

          2. 240222 says:

            Of course, the diversity of opinion (on all issues) within the Labour Party remains – as it does within all political parties – and this diversity will continue to give rise to all sorts of tensions. Thank goodness!

      2. Brian Howard says:

        You have mealy mouthed support for a ceasefire in the face of ongoing genocide then you have it coming and a little bit of embarrassment is the least of it.

        1. 240223 says:

          Why is the call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, working towards a permanent ceasefire, ‘mealy-mouthed’? How does the emotive use of language like ‘collective punishment’ and ‘genocide’ advance the cause of peace?

    4. Cathie Lloyd says:

      Gaza concerns all of us – to see slaughter like this taking place. We have a responsibility for one another

  3. MacGilleRuadh says:

    Why on earth didn’t the SNP contingent simply walk out of the place when that decision was announced?

    1. They walked out this evening

      1. 240222 says:

        …along with many Tories, who were equally frustrated by the Speaker’s decision.

  4. John says:

    Hoyle is effectively the House of Commons referee although he originally played for Labour.
    His former teammates were up against it so they appealed / threatened him to change a decision in their favour.
    Hoyle crapped it, made decision in Labour’s favour then ran away and left the referees assistant to face the music.
    With a jelly backbone like he has he could get a job refereeing in SPFL at Ibrox or Celtic Park if he gets the boot.

  5. David B says:

    So just to be clear, Parliament has voted for an immediate ceasefire. You would rather the SNP motion had been voted on and lost, than that the Labour amendment was voted on and carried?

    1. John says:

      Parliament didn’t actually vote on Labour amendment or SNP motion and whatever good could have come out of today had been lost. Westminster uproar is headline and most people look on and shake their head in disbelief.
      Labour has had umpteen weeks to table their own motion on Gaza ceasefire but never did because leadership didn’t want one. Labour leadership panicked when SNP put down a motion and they also realised that international opinion has moved in favour of ceasefire. They had to stimy the SNP motion as it would have exposed how out of touch leadership was with many of their MP’s so they leant on the Speaker (a former Labour man) to bend rules and come to the aid of the party leadership in its hour of need.
      Whatever passed in Commons (without a vote) is virtually meaningless, the Commons is in even more disrepute and the Speaker is shown not to impartial.
      He ho never mind that’s all not as important as Labour leadership dodging a bullet.
      Party before principle in action.

      1. David B says:

        If the Commons is in (more) disrepute it’s not due to the MPs who stayed in their seat to vote for a ceasefire.

        1. Legerwood says:

          MPs do not vote from their seats but go into the Lobby to vote. That was where the zsNP MPs went after they left the chamberbso that they could vote on the ammendment. In this case there was no vote. The Deputy Speaker declared the ammendment had passed without division

      2. Niemand says:

        Would any ceasefire amendment have been really meaningful though? Israel couldn’t give a toss about it and will continue as planned come what may.

        And the SNP amendment for a unilateral ceasefire had no chance of success either.

        I may be too cynical but all of it looks like party politics and pointless.

        And yet it looks like the majority in the HoC actually are quite close on the question. I think they may sort things out in the next few days.

        1. Whosoever says:

          The target audience isn’t Israel and Hamas. The Israelis fought a war against Britain within living memory, Hamas and Hezbolla are wired to Tehran and couldn’t give a shit about Westminster. Israel is wired to the USA, and Britain is a bystander. Britain calling for a ceasefire is a diplomatic stance to the world at large, not the beligerants. But that may well be lost in the far more important task of trying Lelsey Hoyle for Witchcarft and crucifying him on a burning pyre. I don’t know if he did anything wrong, very possibly not, but in the face of terrible things in Gaza we must have pointless screetching about parliamentary proceedure. I’ll give the caesefire resolution 30 minutes and the moronic screetching 2 days. Instead of having a debate about the Gaza war, Westminster prefered to become a shower of political morons. I am particularly taken by the politicians who rushed out of the house in Protest, then rushed back in to vote in favour of the thing they were Protesting Against. What a shower of twats.

        2. Drew Anderson says:

          “…the SNP amendment…”

          There was no SNP “amendment”; there was an SNP motion, to which Labour tabled an amendment.

          Labour have had plenty of opportunities to use one of their own opposition days to table a motion on a Gaza ceasefire, the official opposition get 17 days per session (not per month Mike), the 3rd party get 3. Starmer was in trouble because he hadn’t faced the issue and was looking at as many as 100 of his MPs (including some of his shadow cabinet) voting for the SNP motion.

          By putting pressure on Hoyle, to deal with Labour’s amendment first, Starmer effectively stole one of the SNPs very few opposition days and drove a fleet of buses through longstanding convention. Is it a big deal? Well, when you have a system lacking a written, easily accessible constitution and much of parliamentary business is conducted by precedent and convention, following the generally accepted, if unwritten, rules is important; is it not?

          This is up there with Johnson’s illegal prorogation of parliament. Starmer has shown that, like Johnson, he won’t be bound by convention and that actual rules are needed to keep them, and their ilk, in check.

          1. Niemand says:

            Their motion, then, had no chance if getting through unamended. This is what the SNP do regularly – put stuff forward they know will fail so they can make a lot of noise when it does. What happened yesterday was indeed wrong and Hoyle has said so. I hope we find out exactly what happened and that the meeting today can resolve things. But I won’t be crying about the SNP, I trust them no more than Labour or Tory. That shipped sailed long ago due to their own actions.

          2. Drew Anderson says:

            So your only comeback, once we strip out the fluff, is SNPbaaad?

            The SNP were entitled to table the motion, whether it could have gained enough support to pass, or not, is immaterial. Opposition day motions rarely succeed; the governing party [usually] have the numbers to strike them down, so your confected guff about “…put[ting] stuff forward they know will fail so they can make a lot of noise when it does…” applies, almost invariably, to any party tabling an opposition day motion.

            The reason opposition days exist, is that without them the parliamentary agenda would be completely dominated by that of the governing party. Would you prefer that opposition days were done away with?

          3. Niemand says:

            The problem is that many are seeing this very much from their own party political allegiance. I prefer to listen those who do not have that to try and understand this situation properly. It is now interesting that we have an alliance between Tory and the SNP calling for Hoyle’s head. Of course it is wrong that the SNPs day was hi-jacked but it was the Tories withdrawing their amendment that actually triggered that. Hoyle got it wrong but he is being vilified beyond all reason. But yes, my own biases mean I do not care about the SNP one iota and put simply yes, they are baaad.

          4. Niemand says:

            John Crace in the Guardian today sums it up very well for me;

            ‘This should have been the time for MPs to come together. They are always talking sanctimoniously about doing this. As if they had a monopoly on enlightenment. They alone can channel the nation’s higher power.

            What we got was the exact opposite. An SNP opposition day debate designed to highlight splits in the Labour party. A Labour amendment created to prevent a split in its own ranks. One that bridged the gap between the SNP position and the Labour leadership. A Tory amendment whose only function was to knock out Labour’s, as there was hardly a cigarette paper between them, under the parliamentary precedent that government amendments kick out opposition ones on such occasions.

            So there we had it. While more men, women and children were dying in Gaza, all UK parties were using the conflict for marginal, parochial gains. Just lip service to a higher calling. All claiming they cared only for bringing the war to an end. All so detached from reality they couldn’t even see they were lying to themselves. Just indulging in performative politics. Knowing there was no chance an IDF or Hamas commander was listening in. Nothing they said would make a difference. So they could say what they liked.’

      3. 240222 says:

        Yes; unfortunately, the Conservatives and the SNP decided to walk out hand-in-hand, refusing to vote on this serious matter, yet again choosing political games over serious solutions.

        1. Legerwood says:

          I believe the SNP went to the Lobby ready to vote on Labour’s ammendment but the Deputy Speake did not call for a vote but declared Labour’s ammendment had passed without a division. She was a Labour MP before taking up her current position

          1. 240222 says:

            Yep; the SNP’s motion for an ‘immediate ceasefire’, which Labour amended to an ‘immediate humanitarian ceasefire’, went through ‘unopposed’, without a formal vote, after the government dropped its opposition to the motion and the SNP picked up their ball and went home.

    2. Gordon McAdam says:

      The Labour amendment wasn’t voted on.
      The Deputy Speaker, Dame Rosie Winterton (a Labour MP no less) waved it through depite the many voices clamouring for a vote to be held.
      She claims she didn’t hear them. She must be stone deaf when it suits her (similar to the relationship Starmer has with his pledges) because the voices calling for a vote were easily heard on the live tv coverage.
      The behaviour of Labour yesterday is yet another indication that if they form the next government there are very worrying times ahead in that the party under Starmer is becoming more and more authoritarian and willing to stoop to any level to protect itself. This is a party concerned only with gaining power for power’s sake, not with providing a vision for the future and with no concept of how it will deliver anything positive for the country.

  6. Lynn Reid says:

    It of course didn’t help that the Madam deputy speaker wasn’t up to the job either.

  7. Whoever says:

    Who the fuck cares about a ceasefire in Gaza when you can have a pointless rammy aboutr parliamentary? Westminster did vote for a ceasefire, but that will go unnoticed (the target audience isn’t Hamas and the Israeli government – neither could give a shit). What will go noticed is calls for the crucifixion of Lesley Hoyle and other dull stuff. I have doubts that the whole circus had anything much to do with the Gaza war in the first place. What a shower of pillocks.

    1. John says:

      Scottish Labour voted to support SNP motion.
      SNP have every democratic right to bring the motion which reflected their membership (and I would suggest a large section of electorate in Scotland’s view).
      If Uk Labour have failed to bring forward a motion on each occasion for their own internal political reasons.
      The Speaker is responsible for upholding the rights of all MP’s and parties and by his own admission failed to do this correctly despite being warned by his deputy. Yes there was some political shenanigans from all sides but the primary responsibility for the farce that ensued lies with the Speaker as he plainly failed to undertake his job correctly. What was more reprehensible was the fact that he left his deputy to deal with the consequences when he must have known his decision was controversial.

      1. 240222 says:

        What did the Speaker do wrong? He allowed Labour to propose an amendment to a motion that the SNP had put before the House and left the House to decide whether or not the SNP motion should pass with or without that proposed amendment, as he was perfectly entitled to do. The bottom line is that the House passed a motion that calls for an ‘immediate humanitarian ceasefire’ in Gaza, despite the fact that Tory and SNP MPs refused to support that motion.

        1. He was not perfectly entitled to. His job is to uphold the rules of the house with impartiality, he did precisely the opposite. It is utterly disgraceful.

          1. 240222 says:

            Mr Hoyle’s actions are not specifically precluded by any of the Standing Orders that govern parliamentary procedures. He chose not to follow long-established conventions in this case, but that’s how our parliamentary procedures evolve – by precedent. I see no good reason why only government amendments to motions proposed by opposition parties are allowed to be tabled in parliament; it’s a bad tradition.

        2. SleepingDog says:

          Darkly (triadic) humorous that Lord Parakeet the Cacophonist’s primary concern here is upholding the entitlement of a privileged Speaker. Over-identification much?

          1. 240222 says:

            Are you saying that the elected Speaker of the House of Commons isn’t or shouldn’t be entitled to allow the tabling and discussion of proposed amendments to opposition motions?

        3. John says:

          The Speaker changed established protocol at the behest of one party leader, the party he originally represented, without discussing with other party leaders. He was advised, in writing, that this was not the correct thing to do.
          Worst of all he then left one of his deputies to deal with fall out from his decision and she subsequently mishandled the situation and made a bad situation worse.

          1. 240223 says:

            The clerk of the House told the Speaker that the decision to select both amendments ‘represents a departure from the long-established convention for dealing with such amendments on opposition days’. However, he also confirmed that the Speaker ultimately has discretion over what amendments to select.

            But if the Commons has lost confidence in Hoyle as Speaker, it can oblige him to step down with a vote of no confidence, as it did Michael Martin in 2009. I believe that the Conservative MP, William Wragg, has already tabled an early day motion of no confidence and that the SNP members will support that motion.

        4. Graeme Purves says:

          Wasn’t ‘240222’ a smash hit for Obfuscation Overdrive, and Smashy and Nicey’s favourite record?

          Or was it just the number Dr. Hook needed ’40 cents more’ for to continue his conversation with Mrs. Avery?

          1. 240224 says:

            ‘Sylvia’s Mother’…. You’re showing your age, Graeme.

  8. John says:

    The SNP motion includes the term collective punishment which I think fairly reflects how a substantial section of Scottish (& UK electorate) think about current situation in Gaza.
    Reading commentary in Guardian (including John Crace who is usually reasonably impartial) everything is seen through a rather one eyed Labour perspective. The implication is that other parties should check that their policies and motions will not upset Labour.
    The issue was Gaza not internal Labour problems but this seems to be beyond their ability to see or admit.
    Does anyone realistically think Labour would have even moved to the position of their amendment on ceasefire without the SNP motion?
    The Speaker is not going to resign and Westminster establishment will support him and SNP have said that they would have voted for Labour amendment. Maybe it is time that SNP took the higher moral ground, accepted Speaker’s offer to a further debate on Gaza, and prove to tribal Labour supporters that the issue was always primarily about Gaza.

    1. 240223 says:

      Yes; the inclusion of the term ‘collective punishment’ was part of the problem with the SNP’s motion. Regardless of what the UK electorate feels or doesn’t feel, this is a legal term, and no international court has determined that Israel is guilty of this crime. The SNP motion was therefore prejudicial and ill-advised from a purely legal point of view; the House of Commons was never going to agree to it. Labour’s amendment of the motion removed that problem.

      1. John says:

        The motion included what a substantial part of electorate, including myself, think so I and many others were glad it stated the term collective punishment.
        Is it wrong to bring a motion that actually reflects public opinion?
        Unlike Ukraine situation there are no obvious good guys and bad guys here and the public have a variety of opinions. The motion should have been debated so that the variety of public opinions could have been aired and voted taken. One of the reasons for public discontent over Gaza is that Westminster is not representing a substantial section of society’s view and indeed in some cases trying to demonise it.
        The International Courts may well find that Israel and Hamas are guilty of war crimes including collective punishment. The fact that this has not happened yet does not preclude the SNP stating that is what they and many people see happening from evidence of their own eyes.

        1. 240223 says:

          But the motion was brought and debated.

    2. 240223 says:

      ‘The Speaker is not going to resign and Westminster establishment will support him..’

      But the ‘Westminster establishment’ has it in for him because he broke with its conventions. The early day motion of no confidence, which the SNP members are supporting, is a Tory motion.

      1. John says:

        That motion will never be carried.
        Regardless of what we think of archaic convention in Westminster the fact is the guy who is supposed to uphold conventions, unilaterally overturned one after discussion with only one party leader, was advised not to by his chief clerk, let his deputy deal with fallout and then admitted he made a mistake.

        1. 240223 says:

          Probably not. But pundits are saying that, if the Conservatives and SNP can get 100 MPs to sign William Wragg’s early day motion, that the House has no confidence in Hoyle, then his position as Speaker will have become untenable and he’ll have to resign. If he doesn’t, the House isn’t likely to elect him Speaker at the beginning of a new Parliament after the upcoming general election.

          1. Paddy Farrington says:

            Parliament no longer plays by its own rules, written or not. Michael Martin announced his resignation after 22 MPs signed a motion of no confidence in him. At the last count we’re at 71 against Lindsay Hoyle and so far there’s little sign of him going. Westminster is broken: this is all grist to the SNP’s mill.

          2. 240224 says:

            It’s not ‘broken’; it continues to deliver government. But the Westminster system, by which we currently govern ourselves at local, national, and supranational levels in Britain, certainly doesn’t deliver good government.

            Some of the problems include: the concentration of executive power in one-party and bare-majority cabinets; cabinet dominance; majoritarian and disproportional electoral systems; unitary and centralised government, with little or no devolution; the concentration of legislative power in a single-chamber legislature or one with only a very weak upper house…

            Lord Hailsham was right when he characterised government in Britain as an ‘elective dictatorship’ in which bare-majority governments have almost unlimited power.

            The democratic deficits of the Westminster system is one of the main reason’s we’ve seen a gradual rise in ‘anti-politics’ over the past four decades; that is, an increasing public disengagement from traditional forms of so-called ‘arena politics’, declining electoral turnout and party membership, and lower political participation in mainstream politics. It is symbolised by the depiction of the so-called ‘left behind’, who are alienated from the established way of doing politics and are ripe for radicalisation.

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.