Who sent in the clowns?

Over the years there have been many good arguments put forward for why we need a written constitution but none have been as persuasive as the utter farce we witnessed as the SNP’s Gaza ceasefire motion was “debated” in the Fun Palace on the Thames calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

That place defends itself on the grounds that it works because of “conventions” and “precedents”! Aye, right!

Just as a wee background. The Government of the day, usually Tory, allows the Opposition parties to command the agenda on a whole 20 days in a Parliamentary session. Of these Labour get 17 days and the SNP get the other 3. The idea is that the opposition party can choose which topics to debate and have voted on. The “convention” and “precedent” is that the Government will put forward an amendment and after the debate a vote is taken. This allows opposition parties to air topics which are of wide interest but which usually the Government would rather steer clear of. Convention and precedent both say that no other Party will put forward an amendment, either abstaining (which is Labour’s default position on anything the SNP propose) or voting with the Government.

This is exactly what the Clerk of the House told Sir Linsay Hoyle before the debate started and then took the very unusual step of recording his written advice, because the Speaker was proposing to break all the conventions and rules. Why?

It’s strange that Hoyle took this step after Starmer had met with him in his private office just before the debate, why? Hoyle says that he acted because he was worried about the safety of MPs, a concern which has never led to a change in procedures even following the murders of Jo Cox and Sir David Amess. Not to mention a raft of incidents recently of MPs offices and homes being targeted. To say that we desperately need a written rule book is a gross understatement.

Starmer claims that he wanted to give MPs as wide a choice of options to vote for, which makes you wonder why on earth he didn’t use even one of Labour’s Opposition Days to table a motion and allow it to be debated. Instead he hijacked one of the 3 days the SNP gets because he was scared to put his own plan to even his own MPs far less the full chamber. He claims to have “hated” the phrase “collective Punishment” of the people of Gaza in the SNP motion even though the exact same phrase was in the motion backed by the Labour Conference. The simple fact is that on this issue Labour has more fractures in its ranks than an A & E Department in winter.

It’s part of an MPs job to highlight the weaknesses in the positions which other parties adopt as much as supporting their own. Labour seem to think that they should be exempt from such scrutiny. Maybe because they have no policy proposals to defend of their own but that cannot and will not stop others highlighting the simple fact that the Emperor has no clothes.