As Hoyle was accused of having ‘undermined the confidence’ of the House, the Tories and SNP may seek revenge

Whatever happened behind the scenes, Hoyle ignored advice from Commons officials and handed Starmer a way out of his quandary

It was like a throwback to Westminster’s arcane parliamentary rule book wrangling of 2019 over Brexit.

The House of Commons was in uproar on Wednesday over a vote on a ceasefire call for Gaza. The ramifications may last long into the future for house Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, as will perceptions of him among factions of angry MPs.

The hubbub was because Hoyle channelled the spirit of his Brexit-rebel predecessor, John Bercow, by breaking with convention in calling votes on Gaza in a way that politically benefited Labour – speakers are meant to be even-handed at all times.

Whereas Bercow favoured Remainers by famously stymieing Theresa May’s attempts to have a vote on Brexit, Hoyle now stands accused of favouring Labour with a Gaza vote. Westminster insiders said it would help Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer fend off a politically-ruinous backbench rebellion. Cue howls of indignation from Tory MPs and their Scottish National Party (SNP) counterparts.


The row had its roots in a motion tabled by the SNP calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, and for Israel to stop the “collective punishment” of Palestinians. The so-called “opposition day” motion (when the opposition drives Commons business) reflected an unsurprising position oft-enunciated by the SNP.

But the motion also had the (wholly intended) secondary political effect of placing enormous pressure on Starmer, who has tried to tread a more delicate line on Israel as he tries to move Labour on from past allegations of anti-Semitism.

Many Labour backbenchers, and privately even some frontbenchers, would prefer the party to take a harder line with Israel. Backbench Muslim MPs in particular have been furious with Starmer’s delicate balancing act, which saw him mute criticism of Israel’s actions.

The SNP motion, as laid down, could have fomented a rebellion by Labour MPs, as they would all have been forced to take a position on the SNP’s straight-up ceasefire call, which many might have backed. This would have damaged Starmer.

He attempted to head the rebels (and the pot-stirring SNP) off at the pass by tabling a watered-down amendment. It was a little bit closer to his party line, in that it called for a ceasefire but was more even-handed about Israel. But it was enough of a shift to give the Labour rebels something in the name of their own party to vote for, quelling the appearance of rebellion.

But because the Tories tabled their own amendment, a complicated parliamentary convention kicked in that should have meant the Labour one was never put to a vote. This would have put the Labour rebels back in a bind over the SNP motion.

Hoyle, however, broke with convention to unexpectedly call Starmer’s wording up for a vote first, in advance of the SNP one. Inside, the Labour leader must have been dancing.

The talk around Westminster corridors was that Starmer and his allies leant on Hoyle, with a suggestion that it may even have been made clear to him that Labour could ensure he was toppled as speaker after the next election.

Whatever happened behind the scenes, Hoyle ignored advice from Commons officials and handed Starmer a way out of his quandary.

Furious Tories walked out of the chamber in protest as Penny Mordaunt, the Commons leader, accused Hoyle of having “undermined the confidence” of the House.

The Tories and SNP may well seek revenge in the future.

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