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Gaza Ceasefire Debate Descends Into Farce Despite Labour Swerving Rebellion

(Alamy)

4 min read

The SNP’s opposition day motion for a ceasefire in Gaza descended into unexpected chaos, after an unusual intervention by the Commons speaker helped Labour to avert a different rebellion that had been anticipated.

Opening the debate on Wednesday, which was already expected to be tense, House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle announced he would be breaking with convention and selecting both Labour and the government’s amendment to the SNP’s motion for a ceasefire. Ordinarily, the Government amendment would take precedent.

Hoyle’s decision prompted shouts of frustration from Conservative benches as he announced it to MPs. The decision will see Labour's amendment voted on first, then the government's, then the SNPs original ceasefire motion. The Liberal Democrats also put forward their own amendment calling for a ceasefire, but that was not selected by the Speaker.

The key difference between Labour's amendment and the SNP's original motion is Labour specifying that a ceasefire must be on "humanitarian" grounds, and does not mention “collective punishment” of the Palestinians. The difference between Labour's amendments and the government's is more marked, with the government calling for a "humanitarian pause" in the fighting with a view towards "a permanent sustainable ceasefire" instead of an immediate ceasefire.

Had the Speaker stayed with convention, the government's amendment could have led to Labour's amendment not being chosen at all – forcing Labour MPs who still wanted to vote for a ceasefire to break their party whip, which was to abstain, and vote for the SNP's motion.

In response to Hoyle’s announcement, senior Tory MP William Wragg tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) expressing he no longer had confidence in the Speaker’s decision.

A senior Tory MP told PoliticsHome they believed Hoyle had made a "very serious misjudgement", and would "almost certainly" sign the EDM after meeting with the chief whip. 

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey defended Hoyle's actions, telling LBC he "was doing a good job in trying to get consensus".

"The SNP's reaction is yet more evidence that they were trying to pay politics with this," said Davey. 

Following Hoyle's announcement, the SNP confirmed they would now be backing Labour’s amendment, and hoped Labour would in turn back the SNP’s original motion if Labour’s amendment was unsuccessful. 

“The Scottish National Party has always been fully committed to an immediate ceasefire, of course the Labour amendment calls for an immediate ceasefire so we will be supporting that," SNP leader Stephen Flynn told Sky News.

"I similarly hope that when it comes to a vote on the SNP motion which of course is indeed also in favour of an immediate ceasefire but recognises the collective punishment of the Palestinian people, that the Labour Party will support us as well."

But the unusual approach to parliamentary mechanics, which appears to have quashed a possible rebellion by Labour MPs wishing to vote with the SNP rather than their own party, has sparked significant discontent nonetheless. 

Senior Tory MP, Tobias Ellwood told PoliticsHome he was “shocked at the games both Labour and the SNP have played” over the ceasefire vote.

“I don’t need a vote to state my support for a workable ceasefire,” said Ellwood when asked how he would vote.

“But I can’t vote for an unconditional one which is now clear SNP are. That’s strategically illiterate.”

Labour MP Ian Lavery posted on X he had not been consulted about the inclusion of his name on the order paper.

“I have been informed that my name has been published supporting Labour’s amendment to today’s motion on a ceasefire in Gaza,” said Lavery.

“I want to clarify that this has been done without my consent and that I have contacted the relevant offices to explore how this has occurred.”

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who is the only British-Palestinian MP in parliament, also expressed dismay at the way the day's events had played out.

“I will be encouraging my party to vote for all amendments that push the cause of peace,” said Moran on X.

“It's likely that the headline that comes from Parliament today will be that an immediate ceasefire was rejected because of a lack of coordination. We could and should have done better.”

Elsewhere an SNP spokesperson, responding to reports Labour threatened to "bring down" Hoyle if he did not select their amendment on the SNP's motion,  said "Westminster has turned it into a pantomime of dodgy backroom deals and political game playing".

"Since Westminster voted against a ceasefire in November, 29,000 Palestinian children, women and civilians have been killed," they said.

"That should have been the sole focus of today's vote - nothing else. Reports that Sir Keir Starmer's party blackmailed and bullied the Speaker to break the rules are shocking - and represent the worst kind of broken, sleazy Westminster politics.

"Any such claims should be investigated - and those responsible must be held to account."

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