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Bewildered Tories Want Fellow Conservative MPs To Leave Lindsay Hoyle Alone

House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle (Alamy)

4 min read

Yet another divide has emerged among fractious Conservative MPs – this time over puttering efforts to remove Lindsay Hoyle as Speaker of the House of Commons after his contentious approach to last week's Gaza ceasefire motion.

In little under a week, 81 MPs, including over forty Tory MPs, had signed Conservative MP William Wragg's Early Day Motion for a vote of no confidence in Hoyle, put forward last Wednesday in protest to the Speaker's unusual decision to select both Labour and Government amendments to the Scottish National Party's (SNP) Opposition Day Motion for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The Conservative signatories include senior Tories like Sir Graham Brady, chair of the party's influential 1922 Committee, and MPs representing different wings of the party. It has backers from the right wing of the party like Miriam Cates and Danny Kruger, as well as moderates like Matt Warman and Vicky Ford. 

However, many Conservative MPs who do not plan to back the motion against Hoyle are frustrated at their colleagues' continued pursuit of this particular cause, accusing them of dragging the party and the Government into an unnecessary Westminster row that is ultimately a distraction from the vital task of regaining support among voters.

One Tory MP, a former secretary of state, told PoliticsHome that over the weekend they were approached by a Conservative back bencher who is involved in the effort to oust Hoyle, asking for their support, to which they thought: "What the fuck are you doing?"

"They should do something useful and knock on some doors," said the same MP.

Another Conservative MP said they were bewildered by Tory MPs dragging the party into what was originally a row over parliamentary procedure between the Labour Party and the SNP, and a row that the majority of voters will not care about. They added that the party runs the risk of looking like it is ganging up on Hoyle, who is a relatively popular figure with the public.

Hoyle, who up until recently was also a relatively popular figure with MPs on all sides of the House, found himself at the eye of a Westminster storm last week after he took the unusual step of selecting both Labour and Government amendments to an SNP motion calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

In a highly-charged House of Commons debate, Hoyle told MPs he believed it was important for them to be able "to consider the widest possible range of options," including Labour's call for an “immediate ceasefire” which was “observed by all sides”. Ordinarily, a Government amendment would take precedent and Labour's would not be selected.

An emotional Hoyle apologised on Tuesday night, admitting that he had made an error.

However, the challenge to his future as the Speaker of the House of Commons remains, with the number of Tory and SNP signatures on the Early Day Motion continuing to climb, albeit slowly, in anger over Hoyle's decision to breach parliamentary convention.

Hoyle irritated the SNP MPs in Westminster further on Monday after rejecting their call for an emergency debate on the situation in Gaza. He argued a forthcoming Government statement on the subject rendered the debate obsolete. 

There is no obvious precedent to determine how many MPs would have to sign the Early Day Motion to prompt the government into formally pushing a vote of no confidence in Hoyle, and opinions vary on at what point Hoyle's position would become untenable.

However, with the Government seemingly unwilling to support the backbench effort to replace him, the feeling on Tuesday was that the former Labour MP was more likely to survive the tumult of the last week than be forced out over them.

Cabinet ministers, meanwhile, have been reluctant to publicly attack the Speaker, and instead have directed their criticism to Labour leader Keir Starmer and his alleged role in last week's fiasco in Parliament.

Starmer has strongly denied claims that he pressured Hoyle to select his amendment to the SNP ceasefire motion in order to avoid what was threatening to be a major Labour rebellion.

Speaking last week, the Labour leader last week "categorically" denied suggestions that his Whips threatened to withdraw Labour's support for Hoyle as House of Commons Speaker if he did not agree to put the Labour amendment to a House of Commons vote. 

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