The Speaker of the House of Commons Lindsay Hoyle Meets the Speaker of Israel’s Knesset (2022)

#040 Parliamentary Democracy Has Been Corrupted

The Speaker of the House of Commons Must Go


The “Speaker” of the House of Commons is an elected individual who acts as a purportedly unbiased chair of parliamentary proceedings in the House of Commons. This non-partisan position presides over house of commons debates as chair, determining which members may speak and which amendments are selected. The speaker exists to ensure balance in the house, between government and opposition parties and between front and back benches.

The current speaker is Lindsay Hoyle, a former Labour MP who was last elected in 2019, in the constituency of Chorley, to no opposition (beyond a Green and an independent candidate) as is tradition.

On the 21st February 2024, the SNP, as the third largest party in the House of Commons, had an opposition day scheduled.

SNP Opposition Day Debate Booking on UK Parliament Website (2024)

Opposition days are days allocated in the House of Commons for the discussion of subjects chosen by opposition (non-government) parties. The SNP, being the second largest opposition party in the current 2019 - 2024 parliament, gets just three of these a year (in contrast to the official opposition’s seventeen).

On opposition days the rules are that the main motion, put forward by the opposition party, in this case the SNP, is debated and voted on first, unamended. This has been the procedure for many decades and is very clearly stated on the parliament website as shown below.

On this particular (SNP opposition) day in February 2024 however, the speaker Lindsay Hoyle decided to ignore this procedure and instead put a Labour Party amendment to debate & vote before the SNP’s original motion, to the consternation of a significant portion of MPs in the house that day.

Speaker chooses Labour amendment on Gaza ceasefire motion (The Guardian) (21st Feb 2024)

Chief advisor to the speaker, Tom Goldsmith, Clerk of the House of Commons, had notably even warned Speaker Hoyle beforehand that his decision on this matter had no precedent in the last 25 years, his letter read,

“…I am today exercising the opportunity to place on record my view that the decision to allow an official opposition spokesperson to speak and to move an amendment before a Government minister in response to an SNP spokesperson moving their opposition day motion represents a departure from the long-established convention for dealing with such amendments on opposition days, governed by Standing Order No 31…the Standing Order provides that the first question considered by the House at the end of the debate must be on the text of the original motion. If that is negatived, the question is put on the Government’s amendment…I feel compelled to point out that long- established conventions are not being followed in this case…”

But Hoyle chose to ignore his chief advisor, the clerk, and prioritise Labour’s amendment anyway.

Now there are two pieces of information that are particularly relevant here, the first is that the SNP’s (unamended) motion referred to Israel’s “collective punishment of the Palestinian people”.

Below is the unamended SNP motion, the motion that would have been debated on and voted on first if the normal parliamentary procedure had been upheld by the Speaker.

SNP Original (Unamended) Opposition Day Motion (21st Feb 2024)

The second piece of information is that Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour Party, paid a visit to the speaker directly on the day of the SNP opposition day motion (whilst Labour MPs like Chris Bryant were instructed to filibuster in the House of Commons chamber to buy him time) and somehow successfully persuaded the speaker to eschew normal parliamentary convention, ignore the advice of the chief clark and instead allow Labour’s amendment to be voted on first.

Some journalists claimed Keir Starmer even threatened the speaker on this day,

Political Editor of BBC Newsnight Nicholas Watt (21st Feb 2024)

All of this should deeply trouble those of us interested in parliamentary democracy.

The speaker, Lindsey Hoyle, may have made this decision to avoid giving parliamentary space to a motion that explicitly criticised and called out Israel, historically an ally to the British state, and/or he may have made the decision simply to try to keep his job and capitulate to the pressure being applied from Keir Starmer, bearing in mind Labour are likely to form the next government later this year.

Starmer, politically, had a clear motive to “urge” (or threaten) the speaker to abandon normal, democratic, fair procedure in parliament, because in doing so (allowing the Labour Party amendment to be voted on first changing the original SNP motion forever) Starmer avoided supporting the claim Israel is carrying out collective punishment on the Palestinian people (a war crime), something he is on record as supporting ( and also avoided a potential huge rebellion of Labour MPs who would likely have to chosen to vote for the SNP’s motion calling out the collective punishment of the Palestinian people at the hand of the Israeli military.

Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah, CEO of Oxfam Great Britain, on BBC Question Time (Nov, 2023)

To top it all off, later in the House of Commons, the following week, the speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, after breaking the rules then broke his word to grant the SNP an emergency debate on the issue, which he earlier offered as means of an apology for breaking parliamentary procedure.

SNP Leader in Westminster “Speaker Breaks The Rules Then Breaks His Word” (2024)

This final decision from Hoyle highlighted that the manipulation and distortion of parliamentary democracy he had facilitated the week prior (seemingly in the interests of Keir Starmer) and subsequently apologised for, was not to be redressed in any concrete way.

All in all then, the SNP were completely justified in calling for the speaker to resign as should all those who believe in upholding parliamentary democracy.