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House of Commons in chaos following Gaza ceasefire vote

Tensions ran high on Wednesday in the House of Commons, where the Speaker was accused of allowing the debate on the ceasefire in Gaza to be ‘hijacked’ by the opposition Labour Party. The Scottish National Party accused Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle of ‘tipping the scales in favour of Labour,’ an accusation Hoyle later denied. 

Anger erupted in the Commons when Hoyle allowed a vote on a Labour motion for an ‘immediate humanitarian ceasefire,’ breaking convention. This decision meant there would be no vote on the SNP’s motion, which also called for an ‘immediate ceasefire’ and was supposed to be the day's focus, as it was their dedicated ‘opposition day’ in the Commons. 

The major difference between the two motions was that Labour’s motion had a softer wording on Israel’s conduct in the war, while SNP’s motion had wording that, if passed, could be used to describe Israel’s conduct in the Gaza war as ‘crimes against humanity.’ 

Labour’s motion was passed with loud shouts of ‘ayes,’ but there was no formal voting, as the government refused to take part in protest of what had happened.

MPs from the SNP and a section of the Conservatives staged a walkout of the parliamentary chamber due to Hoyle’s perceived biased intervention. Amid calls for him to resign as Speaker, Sir Lindsay said, “I thought I was doing the right thing and the best thing, and I regret it, and I apologise for how it’s ended up.” 

He added that he was taking responsibility for his actions and, therefore, wanted to meet the ‘key players’ involved. 

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn acknowledged Hoyle’s apology but was extremely furious, stating that his party had been treated ‘with complete and utter contempt.’ 

In a statement after the debate, Flynn said that it was a ‘disgrace that Sir Keir Starmer and the Speaker colluded to block Parliament voting on the SNP motion.’ He also added, ‘This should have been a chance for the UK Parliament to do the right thing and vote for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and Israel, instead it turned into a Westminster circus.’ 

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, referring to Hoyle’s statement that one of his reasons for allowing Labour’s motion was to protect MPs from threats to their safety, said on Thursday, ‘Parliament is an important place for us to have these debates. And just because some people may want to stifle that by intimidation or aggressive behaviour, we should not bend to that and change how Parliament works. That’s a very slippery slope.’

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