Lindsay Hoyle on brink after Labour Gaza vote walkout

Sir Lindsay Hoyle is fighting to keep his job as House of Commons Speaker after chaotic scenes broke out in Parliament on Wednesday during a debate on Gaza.

Tory and SNP MPs have launched an attempt to oust him, with 33 MPs putting their names to a motion of no confidence so far, and more expected to do so.

Sir Lindsay was accused of favouring Labour, the party he represented as an MP for two decades, by agreeing to put its position on the Israel-Gaza conflict to a vote.

He took the decision despite the House of Commons clerk explicitly warning him that the approach broke with a convention for such opposition day debates.

By Wednesday evening, 33 MPs put their names to a so-called early day motion instigated by Will Wragg, the Tory MP and vice-chairman of the 1922 committee, which effectively urged Sir Lindsay to go.

In the Commons, Penny Mordaunt, the leader of the House, said the Speaker had “hijacked” the debate and “undermined the confidence” of the House.

Stephen Flynn, the SNP leader in the Commons, told Sir Lindsay he would “take significant convincing that your position is not now intolerable”.

The backlash led to heated scenes not witnessed in the Commons for years, with SNP and Tory MPs eventually walking out in protest over how the votes were being handled.

Simon Hart, the Government’s Chief Whip, is understood to have repeatedly warned Sir Lindsay against allowing the Labour amendment.

The Speaker ended up giving an emotional apology, saying he regretted how his decisions had panned out and promising to meet party leaders to provide reassurances.

He 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.”

The Telegraph can reveal that Sir Keir personally lobbied Sir Lindsay to choose Labour’s amendment for a vote.

The Labour leader visited him on Wednesday to plead his case, raising fresh questions about the degree to which the Labour sought to lean on the Speaker as the decision on votes was being made.

The political danger for Sir Lindsay has not passed. There is no formal mechanism to oust a Speaker, but the scale of concern among MPs has been a critical factor for past departures.

At the heart of the row is an allegation – vehemently denied by the Speaker’s team – that he agreed to a vote being held on Labour’s Gaza position because of political bias.

Sir Lindsay’s allies said he made the decision because of concerns about MPs’ security and a genuinely held belief that all parties should have their positions put to votes.

The day of drama in the Commons was triggered by an SNP attempt to split Labour MPs with a motion calling for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza.

To head off the rebellion, Labour tabled its own amendment. That wording called for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” but made clear that a longer ceasefire was reliant on Hamas giving back hostages taken in their Oct 7 attack.

The Government also tabled its own amendment, calling for steps to be taken towards a “permanent sustainable ceasefire”.

It was up to Sir Lindsay, who has been Speaker since 2019, to decide whether a vote should be held on the Labour amendment.

Doing so was likely to have political benefits for the Labour leadership, since it would be easier to whip Labour MPs to back their amendment and abstain on the SNP position.

But there was fury from SNP and Tory figures when Sir Lindsay announced that the Labour amendment would indeed be voted on, despite that breaking convention for how opposition days work in the Commons.

A letter written by Tom Goldsmith, the Commons Clerk, was then published, revealing that the official felt “compelled to point out that long-established conventions are not being followed in this case”.

Sir Lindsay eventually publicly apologised, expressing regret at the way the situation had played out. He said: “I do take responsibility for my actions, and that’s why I want to meet with the key players who have been involved.”

There were shouts of “resign” as he made the statement.

In the hour before the apology, chaotic scenes had played out in the Commons.

Ms Mordaunt announced that the Government was withdrawing its amendment in protest at how the debate had been handled.

She said: “I fear that this most grave matter that we’re discussing today and this afternoon has become a political row within the Labour Party and that regrettably Mr Speaker has inserted himself into that row with today’s decision and undermined the confidence of this House in being able to rely on its long-established standing orders to govern its debates.”

The Government’s decision to withdraw its own amendment meant that the Labour amendment was likely to pass, thereby changing the wording of the SNP’s own position. That further inflamed SNP tensions.

Mr Flynn had demanded Sir Lindsay come to the Commons to explain his thinking. Then SNP and Tory MPs marched out of the Commons in protest at the situation.

It remains unclear whether Sir Lindsay’s public apology has done enough to placate critics.

The SNP’s Commons leader said after the apology: “Mr Speaker, whilst I acknowledge your apology, the reality is that you were warned by the clerks of the House that your decision could lead to the SNP not having a vote on our very own opposition day. As a result, we have seen the SNP opposition day turn into a Labour Party opposition day.

“I’m afraid that that is treating myself and my colleagues in the Scottish National Party with complete and utter contempt. I will take significant convincing that your position is not now intolerable.”

In the end, the Labour amendment was passed without a vote being triggered. The SNP motion fell.

How the day unfolded

Commons in chaos as Lindsay Hoyle badly misreads the mood of Parliament

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Much now hangs on how many MPs choose to go public calling for Sir Lindsay to go. Mr Wragg’s motion read simply that “this House has no confidence in Mr Speaker”. Sixteen of the MPs who signed it were Tories, and 17 represented the SNP.

It is possible for more MPs to add their names to the no confidence motion in the days ahead. It is not binding, but acts as a reflection of the mood of the Commons, made up of 650 MPs.

Allies of Sir Lindsay have expressed confidence he will remain in the role and see off the rebellion.

Some MPs expressed exasperation that votes on differing party positions on Gaza, which did not have any binding impact on government policy, could descend into such heated scenes.

Thousands of pro-ceasefire protesters had gathered outside Parliament on Wednesday evening.

John McDonnell, the Left-wing Labour MP and former shadow chancellor who has been calling for a ceasefire for months, said: “It’s absolute chaos, isn’t it? I don’t think it’s done anyone any good, to be frank. We came here today thinking we would have a serious debate about what’s happening in Gaza.

“What’s happened now, it’s just degenerated into, I think, damage to everyone – including Parliament itself.”