Starmer denies threatening Speaker over Gaza ceasefire vote

UK

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle is being urged to “come clean” about whether Labour tried to influence his handling of a debate on Gaza which descended into chaos.

Sir Lindsay, who is facing calls to resign, is meeting with Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt and party chief whips later today in a bid to smooth things over.

The number of MPs who have signed a no-confidence motion has now reached 54.

Politics Live: Speaker clinging on to job

The row broke out on Wednesday night after he allowed a vote on a Labour amendment to an SNP motion calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Opposition parties are not usually able to amend opposition motions, only the government, so some Tory MPs saw the decision as unfair given Sir Keir Starmer was expected to face a significant rebellion had his party’s amendment not been chosen.

The SNP was also left furious that Labour’s amendment was chosen to be voted on first – leading to accusations Sir Lindsay had allowed the debate to be “hijacked” by Labour and resulting in Conservative and SNP MPs storming out of the chamber.

More on Gaza

Health minister Maria Caulfield told Sky News “the rumours are that Labour were going to lose quite heavily and they tried to influence the Speaker with that”.

“He needs to come clean about what discussions were had,” she added.

Labour has denied this and suggested the Tories boycotted the proceedings because they were worried about a rebellion on their own side.

While both Labour and the SNP called for an immediate ceasefire, albeit using different definitions, the government’s amendment called for an “immediate humanitarian pause” in the fighting.

Ms Caulfield accepted last night was “absolutely unedifying” given people in Gaza are dying, but blamed Sir Lindsay for turning an important debate “into a circus”.

She said she was “disappointed and surprised” by his behaviour and that she would “struggle now to support” him.

However she did not go as far as saying he should stand down – noting he had already apologised and will be meeting with cabinet minister Ms Mordant and chief whips of the political parties later today.

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Speaker sorry over ceasefire vote

“Let’s see what happens in the next 24 to 48 hours. He knows he did wrong. He’s apologised, and let’s see what he proposes to fix the situation.”

Gaza vote: What happened in the Commons yesterday – and can the Speaker be sacked?

Commons Speaker facing calls to resign

Last night Labour sources told Sky News that Labour whips told Sir Lindsay – who was a Labour MP before taking on the role of Speaker – that they wouldn’t back him to carry on in his position after the next election if he didn’t pick their party’s amendment.

Shadow cabinet minister Pat McFadden told Sky News it is “not true that any threats implied or otherwise” were made by Labour to the Speaker’s position – and Sir Lindsay is “taking the blame unfairly” for the government’s decision not to participate in the proceedings.

This meant that Labour’s amendment ended up passing unopposed without a formal vote and the SNP were ultimately unable to vote on their own motion.

Advice from the clerk of the House said the decision to select both amendments represented “a departure from the long-established convention for dealing with such amendments on opposition days”.

However the letter said Sir Lindsay ultimately has discretion over what amendments to select.

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