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VITAL COMMONS VOTE DESCENDS INTO CHAOS AMID ALLEGATIONS OF THREATS TO SPEAKER - COLUMN

On 7th October, the world looked on in horror and universally condemned the appalling terrorist attack carried out by Hamas, on Israeli citizens, leaving 1,269 dead and 253 kidnapped around 30 of whom have so far been killed.


However, few could have predicted that the response to this appalling attack would unleash further death and destruction on an unimaginable scale on Palestinian civilians in Gaza. So far, 29,000 have been killed, one death or around every 4 minutes with an assault on Rafah threatening still greater bloodshed.


We in the SNP have been calling for a bi-lateral ceasefire since the start of this bloodshed. Ultimately, only diplomacy and negotiation can secure a lasting peace in the region. And this can only happen if there is a ceasefire in place.


In Westminster my party laid an amendment to the King’s Speech debate in November – our first opportunity to call on the House of Commons to support a ceasefire. Sir Keir Starmer directed his MPs to abstain on this vote. In the end 11 of his frontbench team were sacked or forced to resign for supporting the SNP amendment calling for an immediate ceasefire amid a rebellion of 56 Labour MPs who defied Sir Keir.


The SNP has only has 3 Opposition Day debates when it chooses the debating business and votable motions – Labour has 17.

Since the October 17th attack, Labour has never brought forward a debate or motion on a ceasefire In Gaza. Instead it has chosen to debate such issues as Ministerial severance pay!


At our first opportunity we in the SNP brought forward a motion in our Opposition Day debate.


No one really cares about the procedures in the House of Commons but, suffice to say, against all advice from the Clerk of the House of Commons, the Labour leadership – according to senior Labour MPs – threatened the Speaker of the House of Commons with losing his Speakership after the next election – if he did not tear up established procedure and orchestrate a situation which would help ensure that the SNP motion on a ceasefire in Gaza was not voted upon. This allowed Sir Keir to avoid a rebellion of his own MPs who wanted to vote for the SNP’s motion calling for “an immediate ceasefire” and an end to “collective punishment” of civilians in Gaza, which is a war crime.


Instead, Labour was permitted to table its own motion which called for a “humanitarian ceasefire” which only requires a ceasefire to take place to allow food, water and aid to reach Gaza. After this has been done, the killing begins again. Further Sir Keir refuses to accept that “collective punishment is taking place in Gaza.


Bizarrely the Speaker said his unprecedented break with convention would to allow “the widest debate possible”. Yet, the Lib Dem motion was not included. He also said he had concluded that the convention of prioritising an Opposition Day votable Motion for the Opposition Party which tabled it, was "outdated"!


The fury and backlash at the Speaker being seen to give way to intimidation and threats as indicated by some Labour MPs meant that the Speaker was forced to return to the Commons and apologise – twice - to the SNP when our Motion was not able to be voted on – something he had been explicitly warned about by the Clerk of the House could well happen if he broke with established convention.


As the fury remained unabated, the Speaker offered a new and different reason for his ruling – he had to select a motion on which Labour MPs could vote or they would be abused on social media! By the next day, his explanation was escalated into fears of another MP being murdered.


If this truly was the reason for the Speaker’s unwise decision to upend convention, he would surely have called in all party leaders and asked them to work to agree a Motion they could all support.


In the event, SNP MPs, feeling it was important to support any motion which could in any way improve conditions for those in Gaza, vacated the Chamber for the Aye Lobby to vote for the Labour Motion.


In the end, no vote was recorded on this vital issue. Are MPs any safer as a result of this non-vote? I doubt it.


Because Sir Keir – who cleared his Motion with the President of Israel - cannot bring himself to call for “an immediate ceasefire” or accept that “collective punishment" is taking place, according to Labour MPs, he derailed the opportunity for the House of Commons to express its view on this matter.


Sadly, he successfully involved the Speaker in his machinations. This has placed the Speaker – who must absolutely remain impartial – in an untenable position. He will pay a high price for this, but the real villain here is Sir Keir Starmer who engineered the whole mess.


When we should have had the opportunity to support an end to the killing and collective punishment of civilians, Sir Keir was shamefully plotting to avoid a rebellion in his own ranks. This glimpse into a Starmer Government was chilling in its ruthlessness.



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