“Dark day for democracy” as Parliamentary convention broken to protect Labour MPs from Islamic mob

In what is being described as “a dark day for our democracy”, the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, last night broke with Parliamentary convention by allowing Labour MPs to vote for an amendment to an SNP motion calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

In what is being described as “a dark day for our democracy”, the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, last night broke with Parliamentary convention by allowing Labour MPs to vote for an amendment to an SNP motion calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The SNP was hoping to split the Parliamentary Labour Party by tabling a motion calling for an “immediate” ceasefire, which the Party opposes but which some Labour MPs support.

But because the Speaker allowed them to vote on Labour’s amendment to the motion, which called for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” but made a longer ceasefire contingent on Hamas releasing the Israeli hostages, the Party avoided an embarrassing rebellion. As reported in the Telegraph, the Speaker agreed to this despite being warned by the House of Commons clerk that to do so would break with Parliamentary convention for such opposition day debates.

The decision led to heated scenes not witnessed in the Commons for years, with SNP and Tory MPs eventually walking out in protest over the Speaker’s decision. At the time of writing, over 60 MPs have signed a motion of no confidence in Sir Lindsay and his future looks uncertain.

Many commentators have since accused the Speaker, a former Labour MP, of party-political bias, not least because Sir Keir had a face-to-face meeting with him before he made the decision in which he urged him to allow a vote on the amendment, thereby sparing his blushes.

However, the Speaker has since said that he allowed the amendment to be voted on because of genuine fears over the safety of Labour MPs who have faced threats from pro-Palestine – and pro-Hamas – supporters over Labour’s hesitation on calling for a ceasefire. In the absence of being able to vote on their own party’s amendment, loyal Labour MPs would have felt obliged to vote against the SNP motion and that, in turn, could have led to violent reprisals against them and their families by Muslim extremists, according to this line of reasoning.

That may sound far-fetched, but Hoyle explicitly said that he had acted out of fears for “the safety of MPs and their families”. According to some reports, Keir Starmer warned Hoyle in their face-to-face meeting that if he failed to allow MPs to vote on Labour’s amendment, thereby forcing some to vote against a ceasefire, and they or their families were subsequently attacked, he would have “blood on his hands”.

Such fears are not necessarily misplaced. On Tuesday, in a debate on rising antisemitism in the UK, Sir Michael Ellis, the Conservative former attorney general, had already flagged the horrendous threats levelled at MPs as a result of the Gaza conflict. “The aggressive hounding by protesters of MPs, especially Labour MPs out campaigning and a Conservative colleague at his home [Tobias Ellwood], is a real threat to the democratic process.”

If Sir Keir did raise this concern with the Speaker, he wasn’t the only Parliamentarian to do so. On the night of the Gaza debate, Sky News political editor Beth Rigby wrote on X: “Am told that many MPs made personal pleas to Sir Lindsay about amendments. MPs’ have growing concerns for personal safety after incidents of confrontations & protests over Israel-Hamas.”

But if Sir Keir did make that argument – and if it did indeed weigh in the Speaker’s decision to allow Labour MPs to vote for the amendment – that means British democracy is in crisis. In effect, the Speaker of the House of Commons, at the urging of the Leader of the Opposition, has broken parliamentary convention to avoid inflaming a violent, Islamic mob. That will only embolden such mobs to continue to threaten parliamentarians and if such senior members of the House of Commons capitulated to their demands this time, what’s to stop them capitulating to similar demands in future? Members of Parliament are supposed to represent the people who elected them. If they’re doing the bidding of an extremist minority for fear of violent retaliation if they don’t, it is the end of parliamentary democracy.

Addressing these concerns in the Chamber following the Speaker’s decision to allow a vote on Labour’s amendment, Conservative MP Charles Walker spelt out the seriousness of this development.

“Members of Parliament now feel that they have to vote in a certain way to safeguard their safety and the safety of their family,” he said, adding: “This is a far bigger issue than the debate we’re having tonight, because if people are changing their votes in this place, or changing their behaviours in this place, because they’re frightened what may happen to them or their families out there, then we have a real problem.”

Former Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick also told the House that “the real issue of the events of the last 24 hours is not the party-political shenanigans”, but that Parliament “appears cowed by threats of violence and intimidation” from “Islamist extremists”.

In recent years, politicians and other public figures have become a focus of Islamist intimidation and violence over perceived slights and insults to Islam.

Sir Lindsay’s intervention comes in the wake of the resignation of Mike Freer, the MP for the constituency with one of the UK’s largest Jewish communities. Freer has faced abuse, harassment, intimidation, and a series of death threats from Islamic extremists since first being elected in 2010 as the MP for the north London constituency of Finchley and Golders Green.

He was also targeted by Muslim fanatic Ali Harbi Ali – the man who went on to stab Southend West MP Sir David Amess to death in 2021 at a constituency surgery for the ‘crime’ of being a member of Conservative Friends of Israel, and supporting air strikes against the Islamic State.

Freer suffered his first serious death threat in 2011, a year after Labour MP Stephen Timms was targeted by Roshonara Choudhry. The 21-year-old student stabbed Timms twice at an East London community hall, and later told police she had been inspired by al-Qaida, and wanted to “punish” him for voting for the invasion of Iraq.

The Justice Minister said the “final straw” was an incident last Christmas Eve when his office was set ablaze in an arson attack that he describes as having “melted the phones, melted the computer screens, and caused the ceiling to collapse”. In the aftermath of that attack, Freer received an email describing him as “the kind of person who deserved to be set alight”. Following police advice, the MP now wears a knife-proof vest when attending constituency events.

Among all the other carnage Islamist terrorists have inflicted on society over the past 15 years, the Westminster Bridge attack of 2017 was another direct attack on Parliamentary democracy. Khalid Masood launched a car-and-knife attack on the Houses of Parliament, injuring more than 50 people, four of them fatally, before storming the Parliamentary estate and stabbing policeman Keith Palmer to death.

Then there are the numerous foiled attacks. Khalid Ali, a Taliban solider, was carrying three knives when he was tackled by armed officers near Downing Street in 2017, and later told officers he was there to send a “message” to those in power. A few months later, ISIS supporter Naa’imur Zakariyah Rahman was arrested for plotting to bomb his way into Downing Street, kill the guards, and behead Theresa May.

Instead of tackling the spread of violent, Islamist ideology, successive governments have allowed it to spread across Britain, no doubt fuelled even further by unprecedented levels of immigration from Muslim countries, some of the migrants being undocumented. The chaotic events in the House of Commons last Wednesday night should be a wake-up call. If we don’t tackle this problem now, British parliamentary democracy, once the envy of the world, will effectively be over.