Votes Do Matter – 29 February 2024


Shambolic scenes in Westminster last week were unedifying and shameful. Politicians squabbled as children in Gaza were dying as Israeli genocide continues unabated. Many votes in Parliament don’t really matter with a still significant Tory majority ensuring t they can drive through their wants. Occasionally though comes an occasion where it’s close to call or that every vote counts.

Last week’s vote was one. It wasn’t semantics as the wording mattered. An immediate ceasefire and end to the collective punishment being imposed on the Palestinian people is what humanity demands. It’s the crux of the issue not the weasel words of Biden or Starmer.

The eyes of the world were watching, as were eyes in Gaza. The Palestinian Ambassador has detailed how hopes maintained through the horror by demonstrations around the world and votes in chambers that matter. That millions could march and speak out around the world providing succour amidst the bloodshed and despite the desperation all around.

There must have been tears of joy in many Palestinian eyes when the International Court of Justice upheld South Africa’s application. Similarly, there would have been tears of frustration when the UK sat on its hands and abstained; and whilst the USA vetoed the UN Security Council call. But there must have been tears of rage at the debacle in the House of Commons. A good sketch for “Yes, Minister” if the subject wasn’t so tragic.

Hopes must have been dashed. I very much doubt that the motion would have won. But the tally voting for it would have grown and the numbers would have been substantial. A glimmer of hope would have been given to people in Gaza.

Blame rests with the Speaker ignoring the clear guidance of his Senior Clerk and longstanding precedent. The behaviour of the Leader of the Opposition in pressurising him was equally disgraceful. Two senior roles in our democratic process have been undermined. Its frankly “Trumpian”, undermining institutions and abusing power.

John Bercow was pilloried for defending members rights against a Government railroading through Brexit. He did so for the good of democracy and the institution of Parliament. Hoyle caved to the Leader of the Opposition undermining both and he did so to try retain his position after the next election. It’s no comfort to suffering Palestinians that he won’t inherit. That’s gone along with any reputation he had.

Suggesting it’s for the security of members is spurious. Yes, there’s political tensions but you can’t walk around a corner in Westminster without bumping into armed police. Similarly, the security at home and in parliamentary offices is substantial. Provision’s made and threats or fears are acted on. Not so for many vulnerable Muslim citizens as islamophobia increases fuelled by hate filled politicians.

Of course, it wasn’t physical but political security Hoyle was seeking to protect. Labour was seeking to avoid the wording that mattered. That which makes the ceasefire immediate and condemns what’s now ethnic cleansing as Israel makes Gaza unliveable. There’s quite a few Labour MPs want to genuflect that they’re for it without having to actually vote for it. Some have already been exposed as saying one thing and doing the other.

But being an MP’s a privilege. Political cowardice needs called out and they need outed and ousted.