James Grundy MP: ​I have lost confidence in the Speaker after Gaza ceasefire debate

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​You may have been following the controversy around the SNP’s opposition day debate regarding a ceasefire in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

​Firstly to explain to readers, an opposition day debate is when time is allocated on the floor of the House of Commons to bring forward for discussion topical matters such as the current situation in Gaza.

These debates are ‘non-binding’ which means the government is not compelled to act on the result of any such vote, nor do these votes create new laws, or affect any existing piece of legislation.

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These debates, however, have in recent years become extremely contentious because they have been falsely portrayed by some opposition political parties as enacting a material change in the law, or compelling the Government to act.

Leigh MP James GrundyLeigh MP James Grundy
Leigh MP James Grundy

The most recent debate on the conflict in Gaza was controversial enough to begin with, with strong views on all sides.

But the way business was conducted on that day raised temperatures to a point where MPs felt that they, their families and staff were being put at risk of threats of violence or even murder.

This happened because the Speaker departed from long-established Standing Orders for the purposes of that one debate in a manner that was perceived to both protect and advantage the Labour Party above all other parties in the House of Commons.

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It has been alleged in the national press that Mr Speaker may have been put under extreme duress to disregard Standing Orders in such a manner by the Leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, a very serious allegation indeed.

This breach with convention was so serious that the Clerk of the House of Commons, the custodian of the rules, advised against such a departure in writing.

I have no doubt that Mr Speaker is a good man, but there is no doubt that his authority has been severely damaged by this affair.

It is entirely possible that the House has lost confidence in the Speaker as an impartial referee of proceedings, which would be very sad indeed, given that he has up until now been considered excellent in his role.

Two whole parties, the SNP and Plaid Cymru, have now expressed no confidence in the Speaker, as well as a large number of Government backbenchers. It is with extreme regret I have come to the same conclusion myself.

The Speaker has much work to do to regain the confidence of the House. It is to be hoped he can recover his authority.

If however, he cannot, there is no doubt that the villain of the piece will have been Keir Starmer for trying to manipulate the rules of debate in such a manner.