What happens if Lindsay Hoyle quits as speaker?

peaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle making a statement in the House of Commons in London after SNP and Conservative MPs walked out of the Commons chamber, in an apparent protest over the Speaker's handling of the Gaza ceasefire debate. Picture date: Wednesday February 21, 2024.
Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle apologised to MPs over his handling of the Gaza ceasefire vote on Wednesday. (Alamy)

What’s happening?

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle is facing calls to stand down over his handling of the Gaza vote on Wednesday.

Parliament saw scenes of chaos after Hoyle tore up convention by selecting Labour’s bid to amend an SNP motion calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war. Hoyle decided the Commons would first vote on Labour’s amendment before moving on to further votes on the SNP’s original motion and then a government proposal seeking an “immediate humanitarian pause”.

He disregarded warnings from the House of Commons clerk over the unprecedented move, which provoked uproar in the chamber – particularly among Tories and the SNP, whom accused Hoyle of helping Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer avoid a large rebellion from his own MPs. Labour’s amendment ended up passing unopposed without a formal vote after the government and the SNP pulled their participation.

SNP and Conservative MPs have walked out of the Commons chamber in the House of Commons in London, in an apparent protest over the Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle's handling of the Gaza ceasefire debate. Picture date: Wednesday February 21, 2024.
MPs walked out ahead of the vote in protest at Sir Lindsay Hoyle’s decision to allow Labour’s amendment to be voted on. (PA)

What happened in the Commons on Wednesday night prompted criticism from across the political spectrum the following day, despite Hoyle apologising to MPs and emphasising his concerns over the security of MPs who have faced threats over their stance on the Middle East conflict – which he says was behind his decision.

Despite his apology, more than 60 MPs had by Thursday signed a parliamentary motion tabled by a Tory MP declaring no confidence in the speaker. Rishi Sunak also criticised Hoyle's handling of the Gaza ceasefire vote as “very concerning” and warned that parliamentarians should never be intimidated by “extremists”.

London, UK, 21st February 2024. While chaotic scenes developed in the House of Commons, with speaker Lindsay  Hoyle going against protocol and allowing a Labour and Govt amendment to the SNP's call for an immediate ceasefire., pro Palestine supporters queued to lobby their own MPs to vote for the ceasefire.
Protests took place outside Parliament as MPs prepared to vote on a ceasefire in Gaza on Wednesday. (PA)

Why it’s important

The speaker of the House commands authority over all MPs, chairing debates and keeping order when things get rowdy or chaotic. By infuriating MPs as much as he did on Wednesday, Hoyle’s authority has been dealt a huge blow, putting a question mark over whether he can continue in the role.

The speaker, who is elected by other MPs, must be politically impartial so that they can deal with any debates fairly, and not giving favour to any side. To do this, they must resign from their party as soon as they become speaker.

Hoyle, who was a Labour MP until becoming speaker, now faces accusations that he was impartial by allowing Starmer’s amendment to be debated and voted on. By doing this – whether by accident or design – Starmer avoided a potentially damaging split within his party over the vote on a Gaza ceasefire.

It is also important because Hoyle disregarded not only parliamentary convention, but the the advice from the Commons clerk. It also opens him up to accusations that he was pressured to allow Labour’s amendment to be voted on – further undermining his authority.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Picture date: Wednesday February 21, 2024.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle faces accusations that he allowed Labour’s amendment to be voted on to help Sir Keir Starmer avoid a rebellion in his ranks. (PA)

What happens if Hoyle stands down?

If Hoyle does quit, it means MPs will have to decide on who to vote for as his replacement, just months before a general election is due to take place. Hoyle would be the second speaker in recent years to quit as a result of pressure from MPs. In 2009, the then-speaker Michael Martin resigned following political and public outcry over his handling of the MP expenses scandal.

Hoyle resigning may mean that the deputy speakers stand in until MPs decide on a replacement. Those seeking the role would put themselves up for nomination ahead of an election of all MPs.

A candidate who receives over 50% of the vote would face a question put to the House that they take the chair as speaker. However, this is mainly a matter of tradition and the new speaker would take the chair. If no candidate receives over 50% of the vote, the one with the lowest vote – or those on less than 5% – are eliminated.

London, UK. 16th Jan, 2024. betty boothroyd, former Commons Speaker, memorial service at St Margaet's Church Westminster London UK Lindsay Hoyle Commons Speaker Credit: Ian Davidson/Alamy Live News
Sir Lindsay Hoyle standing down would mean MPs having to vote on his replacement out of a list of candidates. (Alamy)

The vote takes place again until one candidate receives more than half the votes. The successful candidate is then physically dragged to the speaker's chair by MPs. This custom is meant to show how speakers would in the past need to be persuaded to take the role as monarchs could execute a speaker for not communicating favourable opinions.

Hoyle’s replacement would only face months in the role as they would have to resign from the role when a general election takes place. However, the speaker can stand for re-election in the new parliament and would be expected to be voted back into the role.

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