'Chaos, shambles, shame': What happened in the House of Commons Gaza debate and will Lindsay Hoyle resign?

22 February 2024, 12:32

'Chaos, shambles, shame': What happened in the House of Commons Gaza debate and will Speaker Lindsay Hoyle resign?
'Chaos, shambles, shame': What happened in the House of Commons Gaza debate and will Speaker Lindsay Hoyle resign? Picture: LBC
Natasha Clark

By Natasha Clark

Last night in the House of Commons was one of the most chaotic evenings I've witnessed - even after the chaos of the Brexit years.

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It all kicked off after a pretty flat Prime Minister's Questions.

The Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, announced that he would allow Labour to bring forward their own changes to the SNP's Opposition Day debate.

That doesn't usually happen.

Sir Lindsay admitted himself that he would be acting "exceptionally" by doing so - but argued that the rules were "outdated" and said the issues debated in the Commons that day were "highly sensitive".

Already the anger from MPs was palpable.

The cries of SNP MPs, and later, Tory MPs threatened to drown out the Speaker, who struggled to be heard and keep order.

Already, the day was shaping up to be a huge mess.

Behind the scenes, we know that the Labour leader had met with the Commons Speaker to discuss this ahead of his decision - and he was the only party leader to do so.

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Labour was forced to deny as "nonsense" reports that the Speaker had been pressured by him and by the party into supporting their bid for a motion of their own, or face the prospect of being booted out as Speaker.

They wanted the chance for MPs to vote for a ceasefire, their new position, to avoid another defeat as they did last year on a similar SNP motion.

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MPs were facing huge pressure from their constituents to back the move as tensions heightened both in the UK and in the Middle East.

So fast forward to the vote.

The Tory Leader of the Commons came out to attack the Speaker - accusing him of undermining the confidence of the House.

Penny Mordaunt said the party would therefore pull their own amendment and wouldn't vote at all.

I was told by several MPs that Tories feared they did not have the votes for it - something denied by the Government.

As the debate wound up, the atmosphere in the Commons descended into farce.

The SNP's Stephen Flynn began screaming for Sir Lindsay to return to the Commons chamber before he and a chunk of Tory MPs flounced out of the chamber.

MPs voted on the bizarre motion to sit in private - something not done since the days of the Second World War - which failed.

It appeared to be an attempt to buy time to get the Speaker back to the Commons.

Labour amendment pushing for immediate Gaza ceasefire passes amid Commons chaos

He made a grovelling apology and appeared emotional at times - as MPs from across the House shouted him down.

The vote, in the end, was nodded through, meaning that enough people shouted 'aye' for the Deputy Speaker to agree it would pass, without a vote.

Lots of shouting, lots of anger - and no actual vote.

Effectively, the House of Commons has now backed a ceasefire - the only success Labour can point to on what was a sorry day in Parliament.

Will that change anything? It's still not the government's official position, despite pressure from America and other allies around the world mounting on Israel.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle has been taking the main brunt of this - but I'm told the Tories will turn their attacks on Starmer today too.

One Senior MP told me: "He has absolutely f**ked it up. But I sense that we will be able to gain more here from turning fire on Starmer instead for allowing this sorry situation to happen in the first place."

Penny Mordaunt, the Commons Speaker, has just indicated this in the Commons this afternoon.

After all, what would the Tories and SNP gain from booting out the Speaker today?

The mood among most is that before today, he was seen as a reasonable, moderate force in the Commons - and a good speaker.

If that is the case, he could keep his job.

But without the support of the SNP - the third biggest party in Westminster - that will be hard.

A crunch 24 hours for the Speaker awaits. They want a re-run of their opposition day debate and assurances that last night's shenanigans will never happen again.