James Cleverly backs Sir Lindsay Hoyle as revolt eases against Speaker over Gaza ceasefire vote chaos

Home Secretary James Cleverly gave his personal backing to Sir Lindsay Hoyle to continue as Speaker despite the chaos in Parliament over a Gaza ceasefire vote.

The Cabinet minister stressed that Sir Lindsay’s future was a matter for MPs rather than the Government.

But his support for the Speaker is likely to further quell a simmering revolt by MPs to oust him.

Nearly 70 MPs are calling for Sir Lindsay to go over his handling of a Scottish National Party Opposition Day vote on a ceasefire in Gaza.

But Mr Cleverly told Sky News: “The Speaker has done a fantastic job. I think he has been a breath of fresh air compared with his predecessor.

“He made a mistake, he’s apologised for the mistake. I’m supportive of him.”

However, he added: “The selection of the Speaker is House business rather than for Government.”

Home Secretary James Cleverly leaves Millbank studios (Getty Images)
Home Secretary James Cleverly leaves Millbank studios (Getty Images)

Some 67 MPs have signed a motion proposed by Conservative William Wragg expressing no confidence in the Speaker over his handling of the Gaza ceasefire debate on Wednesday.

Sir Keir Starmer had faced the threat of a major revolt by Labour MPs who were ready to back a motion by the Scottish National Party on a ceasefire in Gaza.

But this looming rebellion was defused when Sir Lindsay allowed a Labour amendment to be called which also called for a ceasefire, but was not nearly as critical of Israel.

The Speaker’s decision, which was a departure from parliamentary procedure, a fact highlighted by the Commons clerk, sparked fury from Tory and SNP MPs.

After angry and chaotic scenes in the Commons, the Labour amendment was passed without a vote and the SNP motion was not put to a division.

Sir Lindsay apologised for how the day had unravelled but stressed he had allow votes on Labour, the SNP and the Government’s position on Gaza to try to get the widest possible views, and also to try to defuse threats of violence against MPs who had so far failed to vote for a Gaza ceasefire.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle in the House of Commons (PA Media)
Sir Lindsay Hoyle in the House of Commons (PA Media)

The SNP motion was widely seen at Westminster as devised to expose divisions within Labour over a Gaza ceasefire, and was stronger than Sir Keir’s amendment as it criticised Israel’s “collective punishment” of the people of Gaza.

Labour was facing accusations of placing undue pressure on the Speaker.

It was also still not clear why Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt withdrew Tory support for the debate and votes late in the day, with the chaotic scenes then following.

Labour claimed she had done so to avoid a Tory revolt, with several Conservative MPs making it clear they would have voted for a ceasefire.

But Tory MPs rejected this claim and suggested their party pulled out because they did not trust Labour to allow enough time for the Conservative amendment to be voted on.

Rishi Sunak has described Sir Lindsay’s decisions as “very concerning” but did not call on him to quit.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak taking part in a media interview Deganwy, Conwy (Peter Byrne/PA Wire)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak taking part in a media interview Deganwy, Conwy (Peter Byrne/PA Wire)

If further signatures were added to Mr Wragg’s motion, Sir Lindsay will face additional pressure to go, but the number of MPs adding to it appeared to have slowed to a trickle.

There is no formal procedure for removing a speaker, but in 2009 Michael Martin resigned from the post after it became clear he had lost the confidence of MPs across the Commons.

Sir Lindsay’s explanation that he was motivated by concern about MPs’ security has sparked further debate about the impact of threats and intimidation against MPs.

Mr Sunak said on Thursday: “Parliament is an important place for us to have these debates. And just because some people may want to stifle that with intimidation or aggressive behaviour, we should not bend to that and change how Parliament works.

“That’s a very slippery slope.”