ON Wednesday, you could have been forgiven for mistaking the House of Commons for a classroom where a substitute teacher had completely lost control and authority.
The SNP have consistently been calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza for months. As I said in my speech, every route to negotiation, peace or justice begins with a ceasefire.
The UK has as responsibility to call out Israel, as an ally, for the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of military violence against innocent civilians in Gaza. The UK has a duty to uphold the treaties we have signed and seek to prevent potential war crimes and genocide. The only reason this incredibly important conflict was even being discussed in Parliament this week was because the SNP chose to use our Opposition day to facilitate it.
For context, since October 7, Labour have had eight opposition motions where they could have brought this topic forward.
The SNP chose to use our Opposition Day to bring forward our motion calling for a ceasefire, the release of hostages, and an end to the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.
I am angry that the theatrical parliamentary chaos has completely overshadowed the content of what we were discussing. However, that chaos was entirely of the Speaker’s making.
Given that the role of the Speaker is central to how our democracy operates, it is downright dangerous to dismiss the concerns of MPs, from all parties, as petty party political games. I have often said that the way Parliament functions is in many ways supposed to either bore or confuse your average voter, so let me attempt to explain exactly what happened.
The Clerk of the House of Commons warned the Speaker that his decision to have Labour’s motion voted on first would be a departure from the long-standing conventions of Standing Order No 31. In other words, it would break the rules.
Eyebrows were first raised when Lindsay Hoyle was not in the Speaker’s chair for Prime Minister’s Questions. Following PMQs, there is what is called a Ten Minute Rule Bill (TMRB), then we were to move on to debating the SNP’s Gaza motion.
In all my time I can think of only a few rare occasions where a Ten Minute Rule Bill has been opposed, the consequence of which is that the TMRB takes much longer than 10 minutes.
When Labour forced a vote on the TMRB it became clear they were trying to waste even more time by dragging their heels through the voting lobbies, knowingly eating into the SNPs debate time.
At this point the Speaker was still notably missing from the chair.
Once the Speaker finally did turn up, he announced his intention to break with the rules of the house, against the advice of his own clerks, saying: “I think it is important on this occasion that the House is able to consider the widest possible range of options.”
If this was true, why was a LibDem motion not accepted? He also stated that in his view the way Standing Order No 31 was implemented, “reflects an outdated approach”. In the very next breath he chastised the SNP for clapping.
It was during the debate that journalists began reporting that senior Labour figures confirmed that the Speaker was left in no doubt that if he didn’t break the rules and grant Labour’s motion, they would bring him down after the General Election.
There were confirmed meetings between Labour figures and the Speaker where they either lobbied or intimidated the Speaker to get his own way. Channel 4 News reported that Keir Starmer gave an audible, “thank you” to the Speaker as he left the chamber following Hoyle’s announcement.
The Speaker was again missing for the end of the debate and left it to the Deputy Speaker, Rosie Winterton, to announce that the Labour motion would be voted on instead of the SNP motion, even though it was our opposition day.
This unleashed utter pandemonium. The microphones do not do justice to the level of noise in that chamber at the best of times but I genuinely could not hear what was being said a lot of the time because of the shouts of disapproval.
SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn rightly asked multiple times where the Speaker was, and by what mechanism could he be brought back to the House to explain why he effectively turned an SNP opposition day into a Labour one. In an attempt to bring the focus back on to Gaza, I and my SNP colleagues left the chamber to wait in the lobby to vote for a ceasefire.
In among the chaos, the vote that was actually called was whether the House should sit in private ie whether the cameras should stop broadcasting.
Then the Deputy Speaker announced that Labour’s motion had passed unanimously, despite undeniable shouts that it was not unanimous.
Eventually the Speaker appeared to offer his apologies for causing chaos, despite being specifically warned that the fallout would happen.
Since then, Labour have been in full spin mode, pulling in every favour they can, to accuse everyone but themselves of playing politics. They claim they have always supported a ceasefire when a quick Google search shows the exact opposite.
Not only did Hoyle abdicate his responsibilities in leaving his deputy out to dry by leaving her deal with the madness he caused alone, but he is now changing his story.
If the reasoning behind his decision was genuinely about the security of MPs then, again, why were all other parties not involved in these discussions.
Why was there no mention of this in the Speakers email to all MPs advising them on the security measures the House and police were putting in place in the run-up to the debate?
This debacle united MPs across the house in questioning the impartiality and judgement of the Speaker. Remember, Hoyle was elected Speaker on a platform of protecting and following the rules of the House.
For him to break those rules under such questionable circumstances should have alarm bells ringing for all of us.
The way our Parliament functions is laughable at best, and utterly corrupt at worst. This week the behaviour of the Speaker did nothing to refute either.