Time’s up for inept Lindsay Hoyle

<span>Sir Lindsay Hoyle making a statement in the House of Commons after SNP and Conservative MPs walked out over his handling of the Gaza ceasefire debate.</span><span>Photograph: House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA</span>
Sir Lindsay Hoyle making a statement in the House of Commons after SNP and Conservative MPs walked out over his handling of the Gaza ceasefire debate.Photograph: House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA

So, the SNP has “more cynicism in its veins than it has the milk of human kindness”, according to Andrew Rawnsley (“If this tawdry affair ends with a red card for the Commons ref Sir Lindsay Hoyle, it will not reflect well on our MPs”, Comment). Has it occurred to him that not everything the SNP does is designed solely to embarrass the Labour party? There are huge numbers of people who want their representatives to express an unequivocal call for an immediate end to the mass slaughter of civilians in Gaza. The fact that they include many MPs in the Labour party (as well as, I venture to suggest, most of the “cynical” SNP) was the cause of the turmoil in parliament on 21 February, as Labour leaders manipulated a weak speaker to ensure those MPs would be denied that opportunity.

The clerk of the House of Commons warned Lindsay Hoyle that accepting Labour’s amendment and allowing it to be voted on first was likely to prevent the SNP motion from being considered, despite the fact that [it] was one of only three days in the year when the SNP is supposedly permitted to move a motion. The speaker allowed the Labour party to highjack the SNP opposition day and in the ensuing turmoil, and under the inept management of the deputy speaker, the Labour amendment was passed without a division.

By his own admission, Lindsay Hoyle allowed himself to be swayed by Labour arguments about MPs’ safety to make the wrong decision, against the advice of the clerk. His promises to be an impartial adjudicator of the parliamentary rules and a champion of MPs’ rights have been shown to be empty. The main aim now should be not to avoid a third speakership ending badly, but to ensure that parliament can function properly. Lindsay Hoyle has shown himself to be unworthy of that responsibility and should go now.
Barbara Cooney
Giffnock, Glasgow

#MeToo on a plate

I can’t say whether Ray Winstone’s mimicry of a waitress’s accent was well meant or lazy racism (“‘I don’t wanna talk about acting’”). But I can tell Alex Moshakis that when a waitress “does not seem offended at all” at being repeatedly called “darling”, he is watching in real time the reason the #MeToo movement was born. Of course she didn’t, it’s her job not to seem offended. Every female ever patronised or abused in an unequal situation will know what I mean.
Alison Carter
Lindfield, West Sussex

Save a life – lobby your MP

As Andrew Roth and Pjotr Sauer point out, the plight of political prisoners in Russia gets more worrying by the day (“‘More deaths are coming’: fears over fate of other Russian political prisoners after Navalny’s death”). It’s imperative that we, as citizens, make our voices heard, particularly in the case of Vladimir Kara-Murza, who is a British citizen and is seriously ill. The British government is refusing to amend its stance on not negotiating prisoner exchanges, leaving Kara-Murza high and dry. We need to lobby our MPs and David Cameron if we believe that to try to save a life is, at this point, more important than sticking rigidly to diplomatic principles. If we don’t, we could find ourselves complicit in his death. Time is of the essence.
Ruth Windle
Frome, Somerset

Sunderland is where it’s at

I meet a lot of people newly arrived in Sunderland – NHS workers, students and asylum seekers, for example – and I can’t say that I’ve ever heard any of them say “Where the fuck am I?” (“Sunderland may not be like London, Cynthia Erivo, but neither is it like the Britain of old”, Comment). It’s true that the far right have on occasion seen Sunderland as fertile recruiting ground but they’ve never got far and asylum seekers in particular often describe the city as “quiet” (sic!).

I doubt that Cynthia Erivo has spent enough time here to examine how Sunderland has changed in recent years but my perception is that the xenophobia I saw around me (though not aimed at me, a middle-class white boy) when I arrived in 1981 has gradually been overlaid by the natural warmth of people from the north-east. Wariness of the attitudes of southerners remains a constant, though, and from time to time gets an infusion of oxygen from views such as those expressed by Erivo.
Steve Newman

Pride and prejudice

An omission from Tim Adams’s article “Why the miner’s strike still captivates Britain, 40 years on” is any reference to the award-winning 2014 film Pride, which portrayed the true story of a group of lesbian and gay activists from London who raised money to help families in south Wales affected by the miner’s strike and closely engaged with that community. The film demonstrated how the strike fomented an extraordinary solidarity between the emergent LGBT+ social movement and the cause of a “traditional” mining community: something not only memorable, but also still inspiring.
Pam and Hartley Dean
St Albans, Hertfordshire

The trouble with Amazon

David Mitchell says the only problem with Amazon is tax (“If you hate Amazon, blame Rishi Sunak”, New Review). What about its attitude to its staff: low pay, long hours, punishing schedules and hostility towards trade unions?
Graham Larkbey
London E1

Pregnancy and prison

Your article “Pregnant women and new mothers shouldn’t be sent to jail, UK public says” stated that “there is currently no obligation for judges to consider pregnancy or maternity in sentencing decisions”. In fact, judges and magistrates are obliged to follow any Sentencing Council guideline relevant to the offence with which they are dealing, unless it is in the interests of justice not to. The vast majority of offence-specific sentencing guidelines have a mitigating factor of “sole and primary carer for dependant relatives”. This sets out that, when sentencing an offender who is pregnant, relevant considerations may include any effect of the sentence on the unborn child. The general guideline, which applies when there is no relevant offence-specific guideline, sets out the same mitigating factor.

The Sentencing Council has also recently consulted on whether the council should create a specific factor of “pregnancy and maternity”, rather than these considerations being included in the current “sole and primary carer” factor. A separate consultation sought views on amending the “imposition of community and custodial sentences” guideline to add a new section on female offenders, which covers the potential harmful impact of custody on both the pregnant offender and the child. The council will be publishing its responses to these consultations later in the year. However, any changes stemming from these consultations will not create a new obligation.
Lord Justice William Davis, chairman of the Sentencing Council
London WC2

It’s an ill wind…

Your correspondent Pete Lavender says he will rejoice if the English stop using the weather to “fill in awkward gaps” in conversation (Letters). In Scotland, we have long used the weather to greet each other, which, I would gently say, is a communal recognition of shared experience. For example, in lowland vernacular, “Aye, it’s a cauld yin!” or, simply shortened to save breath in the teeth of a freezing gale, “Some day!” invariably leads to vigorous accordance. Meanwhile, our Gaelic speakers long have used “Tha i brèagha!” (“It’s a fine day!”) and similar greetings pertaining to harshness, precipitation or temperature. This is about saying “I share your joy/pain/feelings today” without sounding vacuous, as it focuses on facts everyone can agree on. Far from “burblings”, this is the stuff of cohesion and affirmation.
Bruce Biddulph
Alexandria, West Dunbartonshire